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Non-reinforced preexposure to two stimuli often enhances discrimination between them. Analyses of this perceptual learning phenomenon have mainly focused on the role played by the distinctive stimulus features; this study examined the contribution of the non-distinctive common elements. A standard appetitive Pavlovian procedure was used. Rats received two different schedules of exposure--alternated or blocked--to two compound auditory stimuli, AX and BX. In Experiment 1 a generalization test to BX that followed conditioning to AX showed that animals responded less, and hence discriminated better, following alternated exposure, thus extending the generality of this perceptual learning effect to standard appetitive Pavlovian procedures. The degree to which the common element X was mediating this effect was explored in the next three experiments. Experiment 2 assessed the effectiveness of X following conditioning to AX. Experiment 3 explored X's effectiveness throughout extensive conditioning to X. Experiment 4 tested the ability of X to overshadow a novel stimulus Y. The results were consistent with the suggestion that alternated preexposure can reduce the relative effectiveness of the common element.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Processes

Publication Date





247 - 256


Acoustic Stimulation, Analysis of Variance, Animals, Auditory Perception, Conditioning, Classical, Discrimination (Psychology), Feeding Behavior, Learning, Male, Rats, Reaction Time