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Generalization peak shift in rats under conditions of positive reinforcement and avoidance

By Stanley J. Weiss and Charles W. Schindler


Rats were trained to discriminate between two click frequencies. One frequency was associated with either variable-interval food reinforcement (Experiment 1) or free-operant avoidance (Experiment 2). The other frequency was associated with the absence of food in Experiment 1 and the absence of shock in Experiment 2. On a click frequency generalization test, the rats in both experiments showed positive peak shift with the shape of the relative gradients being very similar. This is the first reported instance of peak shift in rats when responding was maintained by an avoidance contingency. Nondifferentially trained controls showed that this shift was due exclusively to associative processes, with nonassociative stimulus factors in themselves apparently making no contribution to increased rates at particular stimulus values. These results show the comparability of appetitive and aversive control and support the position that gradient differences do not result from approach versus avoidance per se

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