Behavioral momentum and resistance to extinction across repeated extinction tests

Andrew R. Craig, Mary M. Sweeney, Timothy A. Shahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The present experiments assessed whether resistance to extinction of pigeons' key pecking decreased across repeated extinction tests. An additional impetus for this research was to determine how the quantitative framework provided by behavioral momentum theory might be used to describe any such changes across tests. Pigeons pecked keys in two-component multiple schedules (one component associated with a higher reinforcer rate and the other with a lower rate) in which baseline and extinction conditions alternated. In Experiment 1, baseline and extinction conditions alternated every session, and, in Experiment 2, these conditions lasted for 10 and 7 sessions, respectively. Resistance to extinction decreased across successive extinction conditions in both experiments. Fits of the behavioral-momentum based model of extinction to the data returned uncertain results in Experiment 1 but implicated both generalization decrement and response–reinforcer contingency termination as the possible mechanisms responsible for behavior change in Experiment 2. Thus, these data suggest that experimental manipulations that affect discrimination of changes in reinforcement contingencies may influence resistance to extinction by modulating the disruptive impacts of removing reinforcers from the experimental context and of suspending response–reinforcer contingencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-309
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • behavioral momentum
  • discrimination
  • extinction
  • key pecking
  • operant behavior
  • pigeons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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