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Lever attacking and pressing as a function of conditioning and extinguishing a lever-press avoidance response in rats1

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Six experimental rats were conditioned to press one of two available levers to avoid shock. The levers registered bites as well as presses. For four of these rats, shock was contingent on lever bites when a specified time period had elapsed after the previous shock. An extinction period, in which only periodic noncontingent shocks were presented, followed avoidance training. Six yoked-control rats received the same sequence of shocks as did the corresponding experimental rats in both the conditioning and extinction phases. All six experimental rats repeatedly bit the avoidance lever. Four bit it more than the nonavoidance lever during conditioning, and five bit it more during extinction. Five of the six experimental rats consistently bit the levers many more times during each session than did their respective control rats, suggesting that avoidance conditioning facilitated lever biting. Rates of lever biting and pressing by all of the experimental rats and by some of the control rats were highest immediately following shock throughout both phases. During later portions of the intervals following shock, characteristic effects of conditioning and extinction were observed. This finding suggests that extinction of avoidance behavior by unavoidable shock presentations can be demonstrated more readily when shock-elicited responding is extricated from the data.

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