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The effect of conditioned inhibitors and preexposed cues on the outcome-specific Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT) effect in humans

Alarcon, Daniel E.; Bonardi, Charlotte


Daniel E. Alarcon


Using a human Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT) task, Alarcón and Bonardi showed that the selective elevation of instrumental responding produced by excitatory transfer cues was reduced when these cues were presented with a conditioned inhibitor (CI), relative to a control cue that was simply preexposed. However, previous research has shown that preexposed cues might also acquire inhibitor-like properties. This study aimed to contrast the inhibitory properties of CIs and preexposed cues, using novel stimuli as controls, in summation and PIT tests. Participants were trained to perform two actions, each reinforced with a distinct outcome (O1 or O2). Two images were trained as CIs, each signalling the absence of one of the outcomes, by presenting them with a cue that was otherwise followed by that outcome (e.g., A→O1, AI→no O1). In contrast, the preexposed cues were simply presented in the absence of the outcomes. In the summation test, participants rated the likelihood of the outcomes in the presence of two independently trained excitatory cues, each presented with a CI, a preexposed cue, or a novel stimulus. Similarly, in the PIT test, participants performed both actions in the presence and absence of these compounds. In the summation test, the CIs and the preexposed cues reduced participants’ expectations of the outcomes more than the novel stimuli. However, in the PIT test, only the CIs reduced the selective elevation of responding produced by the transfer cues. These results might reflect distinct properties of stimuli trained as CIs and those simply preexposed.


Alarcon, D. E., & Bonardi, C. (2020). The effect of conditioned inhibitors and preexposed cues on the outcome-specific Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT) effect in humans. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 73(5), 645-653.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 17, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 28, 2019
Publication Date May 1, 2020
Deposit Date Oct 22, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 28, 2019
Journal Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Print ISSN 1747-0218
Electronic ISSN 1747-0226
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 73
Issue 5
Pages 645-653
Keywords Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT); Conditioned inhibition; Decision making; Incentive motivation; Cue-reactivity
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