Title: Escape learning and "vicious circle" behavior under partial and continuous reinforcement
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00097958/00001
 Material Information
Title: Escape learning and "vicious circle" behavior under partial and continuous reinforcement
Physical Description: v, 66 leaves : illus. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Melvin, Kenneth Boyd, Jr., 1934-
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla
Publication Date: 1963
Copyright Date: 1963
Subject: Rats   ( lcsh )
Animal intelligence   ( lcsh )
Psychology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Psychology -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 62-66.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Thesis - University of Florida.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00097958
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000543090
oclc - 13098246
notis - ACW6795


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August, 1963


I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the following members

of my supervisory committee for their interest, help and enlightenment:

Drs. P. Brodkorb, B. N. Bunnell, M. E. Shaw, and W. B. Webb. My grat-

itude is due former members of the committee: Drs. J. S. Brown, H. S.

Pennypacker, and R. H. Waters, for their contributions.

I am especially grateful to Dr. H. D. Kinmmel, Chairman of my

committee, for his encouragement, interest, and cogent criticism.

The Graduate School and the Department of Psychology of the University

of Florida have my gratitude for their financial assistance.

Finally, I wish to thank my wife, Bernice, for her help and under-



ACK1OOIELEDCME!NTS ................ ............................. i

LIST OF FIGURES.................. ........................... iv

LIST OF TA LES ................................................ v


I. INTRODUCTION ......................................... I

II. HISTORICAL REVIEW ................................... 7

Ill. METHOD................................................ 18

IV. RESULS ............................................... 25

V. DISCUSSION ........................................... 35

VI. SUMIMARY............................................... 47

APPErDIX...................................................... 50

BIBLIOCRAPHY................................................. 62


Figure Page
1. Mean Number of Trials to Extinction for All Eight
Groups.................................................. 26

2. Mean Speed to Traverse the 6-ft. Runway for Eight
Groups on Each of Four Extinction Days.................. 29

3. Mean Speed to Traverse the First 2-ft. Alley Section
for Eight Groups on Each of Four Extinction Days......... 32

4. Mean Speeds Exhibited by the Eight Groups in Each of
the 2-ft. Sections of the Runway. Each Point Repre-
sents a Mean of Average Speeds for the First Three
Days of Extinction..................................... 34


Table Page
1. Mean and Standard Deviation for Alley Running Speeds
(L/RT) on the Last Training Trial for All Eight Groups
(N-10 per Group)............................................ 51

2. Analysis of Variance for Alley Running Speeds (1/RT)
on the Last Training Trial................................... 52

3. Analysis of Variance for Number of Trials to Extinction..... 52

4. Analysis of Variance for Number of Trials to Extinction..... 53

5. Analysis of Variance for Number of Trials to Extinction..... 53

6. Analysis of Variance for Alley Running Speeds (I/RT) over
Three Days of Extinction.................................... 54

7. Analysis of Variance for Alley Running Speeds (I/RT) over
Three Days of Extinction................................... 55

8. Analysis of Variance for Alley Running Speeds (l/RT) over
Three Days of Extinction.................................... 56

9. Analysis of Variance for Section 1 Running Speeds (I/RT)
over Three Days of Extinction ............................... 57

10. Analysis of Variance for Section 1 Running Speeds (L/RT)
over Three Days of Extinction............................... 58

11. Analysis of Variance for Section 1 Running Speeds (I/RT)
over Three Days of Extinction ............................... 59

12. Analysis of Variance for Running Speeds (l/RT) Averaged
over Three Days for Each of Three Alley Sections ............ 60

13. Analysis of Variance for Running Speeds (I/RT) Averaged
over Three Days for Each of Three Alley Sections............ 61



The resolution of certain behavioral paradoxes has been a

problem of interest to both clinical and experimental psychologists.

One such paradox is seen in neurosis, where actions having unfavor-

able consequences may persist over long periods of time. In addition

to this "neurotic paradox," other behavior which is both self-maintaining

and self-defeating has long been in evidence, e.g., addictions, vices,

and psychotic symptoms.

Such maladaptive behavior is not confined to humans, since through

the use of special laboratory procedures animals can be trained to

approach noxious stimulation in a consistent manner. One example of

such behavior, which seems analogous in some respects to the neurotic

paradox, has been labeled the "vicious circle" phenomenon by Mowrer

(1950). Mowrer reported that this phenomenon was first observed by

J. S. Brown in the following type of situation. A rat was trained to

run down a short straight runway to escape electric shock presented

throughout the length of the runway. The escape was made by running

into a "safe" goal box connected to the end of the runway. After train-

ing in this manner, the animal ran down the alley without any shock

being applied. Such behavior occurred for a number of trials, but

eventually it extinguished. If, however, a section of the runway just

in front of the goal box was kept electrified, the running response


showed a marked increase in resistance to extinction.

Although the vicious circle phenomenon would appear to merit a

thorough experimental analysis, relatively little experimental work

has been done in this area. Whiteis (1956) has confirmed the original

effect, and other experiments have shown that punishment may facilitate

resistance to extinction (Cwinn, 1949; Solomon, Kamin, & Wynne, 1953).

However, other investigators (Moyer, 1955, 1957; Seward & Raskin, 1960)

have not obtained confirmatory results although employing similar tech-

niques and situations. Two recent experiments reported by Brown, Martin,

and Morrow (in press) have pointed out some possible reasons for these

previous discrepancies. Their first experiment did not show any sig-

nificant effects of shock as punishment for escape responses during

extinction. Their second experiment, however, demonstrated that shocked

rats resisted extinction significantly longer than non-punished rats.

The following procedural changes characterized the second study relative

to the first: (a) the intensity of the punishing stimulus was made

more moderate (b) fewer escape training trials were given (c) the

first trials of extinction were given on the same day as the last trials

of acquisition, rather than 22 hr. later and (d) a more gradual transition

from shock during acquisition to no shock during extinction was introduced.

The present study was an attempt to determine the effects of a

partial reinforcement schedule on both the vicious circle phenomenon and,

more basically, the resistance to extinction of an escape response. An

intermittent escape training procedure was one method of making the change

from training to extinction less marked, since partially reinforced animals

would have landed and run on a non-electrified grid occasionally prior to

extinction. Empirical evidence from a wide variety of situations has

shown that resistance to extinction after partial reinforcement is

greater than after continuous reinforcement (Lewis, 1960). Furthermore.,

a study by Jones (1953) has shown that an intermittent escape training

schedule (a procedure in which shock is omitted on some percentage of

the escape trials) results in greater resistance to extinction than a

continuous schedule.

Thus, if an intermittent shock schedule during training established

a more stable running response in the non-electrified segment of the

runway, it might be expected that the vicious circle phenomenon might

be enhanced. Since Jones' study had certain limitations (which are

discussed in Chapter II), a further study of the effects of partial

reinforcement on the resistance to extinction of an escape response

seemed also desirable.

Theoretical considerations necessitated the evaluation of an -

additional variable -- the similarity of the percentage of shock trials

during training to the percentage of shock trials during extinction.

One of the three theories mentioned by Brown et al. (in press) as being

consistent with their results is a form of the "discrimination hypo-

thesis," As applied to the vicious circle phenomenon, this theory

states that those subjects Ss) receiving no shock in extinction would

experience the most marked change from acquisition. For Ss receiving

shock in part of the runway during extinction, this change is less

marked, which should result in comparatively more resistance to extinction.

An alternative theory is that of Mowrer (1950). He maintains that

the initial escape training results in the conditioning of fear to the


cues provided by the buzzer, starting box, and alley. During extinction

the rat runs because it is afraid; running produces shock, which retards

or prevents the process of fear extinction; and fear reduction reinforces

running. Cuthrie'a (1935) concept of negative adaptation is also applica-

ble to the vicious circle phenomenon. According to Guthrie, aversive

stimuli lose their power to evoke escape responses if they are repeatedly

presented when responses that are incompatible with shock are prepotent.

The noxious stimulus loses its escape-evoking power to the degree that

it becomes a conditioned cue for the incompatible reactions. Applying

this theory to the present situation, the tactual cues provided by shock

are part of the stimulus complex to which running becomes conditioned

during training. Shock thus becomes capable of evoking running reactions

which are incompatible with non-running. During extinction, shocked

animals persist longer in running because shock evokes and maintains

forward-going behavior.

Both Cuthrie's and Mowrer's interpretation would lead to a pre-

diction that the use of a continuous shock condition in extinction (one

in which shock is presented in the last 4-ft. of the alley on every

trial) would result in greater resistance to extinction than a partial

shock condition. The discrimination hypothesis, on the other hand,

would predict that a partial shock schedule during extinction would

result in greater resistance to extinction than a continuous schedule,

if the S had been trained under a similar partial schedule. Thus, the

inclusion of groups having the same percentage of shock trials during

both training and extinction allowed the discrimination hypothesis to

be compared with the other two theories.

Shock was present during 33, 67 or 100 per cent of the training

trials for three different groups of rats. These groups were sub-

divided during extinction so that a portion of each group received

either no shock at any time, 100 per cent shock in the last 4-ft. of

the alley, or the same percentage of shock during extinction as had

been given during training. This procedure resulted in the formation

of eight groups, since the group which received 100 per cent shock in

both training and extinction served in two conditions. Resistance to

extinction was measured in terms of number of trials to extinction

and various speed measures.

In the light of the available evidence and theory, the following

hypotheses were formulated:

1. A shock escape response is more resistant to extinction when

it is followed (during extinction) by punishment than when it is not,

regardless of the percentage of reinforcement during training.

2. Partial reinforcement during training facilitates vicious

circle behavior.

3. Partial reinforcement increases the resistance to extinction

of an escape response.

It should be noted that Hypothesis Number 1 asserts simply that

the vicious circle phenomenon will be obtained under the conditions of

the experiment. Hypothesis Number 2 predicts more vicious circle

behavior under conditions which are known to strengthen resistance to

extinction in general. Hypothesis Number 3 predicts that the findings

of Jones (1953) will hold under the present experimental conditions.

No specific prediction was made regarding the use of the same percentage


of hock during extinction as had been used during training, although

it may be noted that the discrimination hypothesis would lead to a

prediction of superior resistance to extinction for these groups over

partially reinforced groups shifted to 100 per cent shock during

extinction. Both Movrer's and Guthrie's theory would predict a reverse




An analysis of the paradigm in which the vicious circle phenome-

non has been produced reveals two main components. One such component

is the original escape or avoidance training; escape training was

preferred due to the limitations in control inherent in avoidance

training. The second component is punishment, usually consisting of

an aversive stimulus of the same nature as that used in the original

escape situation. The punishment is also theoretically avoidable, but

instead is approached and endured by the organism.

The present study contains a third component -- partial reinforce-

ment. This term is used herein to denote a procedure which involves

withholding the aversive stimulus on some escape training trials. It

should be noted that such a procedure leads to a partial schedule of

both shock onset and shock offset.

In the following historical survey, interrelationships between

these three components were of primary interest. Major theories of

punishment, and experiments in which organisms show approach toward or

non-withdrawal from noxious stimuli, were also considered especially



Theory.--Although philosophy had earlier concerned itself with the

problem of punishment, e.g., hedonism, the earliest major theory of



punishment based upon experimentation seems to be that of Thorndike

(1913). His law of effect stated the relationship of punishment to

learning. Thus, when a modifiable connection was made and followed

by an annoying state of affairs, its strength Las decreased. This

"annoying state of affairs" is equivalent to punishment and was defined

by Thorndike as "...one which the animal does nothing to preserve,

often doing things which put an end to it" (1913, p. 2).

Thorndike (1935) later modified his position, relegating punish-

ment to a lesser role. In this later version, punishment was held to

affect learning only indirectly. This indirect effect stems mainly

from the punisnment leading the animal to do something else in its

presence, thich makes him less likely to repeat the original S-R

sequence. Thorndike also postulated an emotional state resulting from

punishment, and stated that "...the impulse to make (the punished

response) tends to arouse a memory of the punishment and fear, repulsion,

or shame. This is relieved by making no response to the situation...or

by making a response that is or seems opposite to the original response"

(Thorndike, 1935, p. 80).

Later theories of punishment have elements in common with Tnorndike's

later theoretical position. Guthrie's (1935) contiguity interpretation

and the avoidance hypothesis of Dinsmor (1954) emphasize the action of

competing responses. Other theorists have stressed the role of an emotional

state induced by punishment. Such emotional states are represented by

Estes' "anxiety stare"(1944), the "heightened tension" of Hilgard and

Marquis (1940), and learned sources of drive such as "fear" or "anxiety"

(Miller, 1948; Mowrer, 1950, 1960). These emotional states are conceived

of as negative in character, and thus the reduction of such emotional

states by non-punished responses is considered reinforcing.

Although theoretical explanations of punishment differ in some

aspects, they generally support the contention that punishment in-

hibits the response associated with it either directly or through the

elicitation of some entional reaction. An alternate reaction may then

be reinforced by escape from punishment, reduction of the emotional

state, or some other reinforcing agent.

Experimentally induced self-punishment.--A problem for both theory

and experimentation has been to explain and analyze instances in which

organisms endure and even seek out noxious stimuli. Although such

"masochistic" behavior has been produced in the laboratory, relatively

little has been done in the way of any systematic analysis.

Experimental work on this problem was conducted by Pavlov and his

students (Pavlov, 1927). They found that noxious stimuli such as electric

shock and wounding of the skin lost their aversive properties, if, when

previously used as CSs for the presentation of food, their intensity was

gradually increased. Thus, a dog would lose his defense reactions to a

shock, and instead smack his lips and salivate in its presence after the

shock had been paired with food. Similarly, Spragg (1940) has reported

"relaxing" responses in drug-addicted monkeys to the sight and feel of a

hypodermic needle. Another study (Slutskaya, 1928) found that infants

who were pricked with a needle and then fed came to show anticipatory

feeding (i.e., approach) responses to the sight of the needle. Very

similar in approach to these experimental studies is the "reciprocal in-

hibition" or "desensitization" therapy of Wolpe (1958), who has reported

considerable success with this technique.


Masserman's (1946) studies of "experimental masochism" provide

an example of organisms seeking out a noxious stimulus. In these

studies cats were trained to press a switch to obtain food. Air blasts

of gradually increasing intensity preceded the administration of the

food. After such training, the cat would frequently work the switch

to experience an air blast that was aversive co "normal" cats (Masser-

man, 1946, p. 57). The aversiveness of bright light to albino cats

can also be reduced through "desensicization" training (Brown & Melvin,

1963). They found chat, after receiving pairings of bright light with

food, a group of animals thus trained endured such a light longer than

a control group. The reduction of light-escape tendencies was found

co be an increasing function of the number of previous light-food


Holz and Azrin (1961), using three pigeons in a free-responding

situaCion, found that punishment that had been paired with reinforcement

increased response race. Sandler (1962) has confirmed their findings

using five camarin monkeys in a similar situation.

Another type of naladaptive behavior which should be considered

is fixation -- a behavioral phenomenon having common elements with the

vicious circle phenomenon. Maier (1949) has shown that frustration pro-

duces very persistent responding to an incorrect cue ("abnormal fixations").

His basic thesis is that frustration results in a fixation or stereotype

of an organism's response. Such an extremely persistent response is not

responsive to alternation by punishment or reward and is a goal in itself,

according to laier.

Maier's theory of "behavior without a goal" has not gone unchallenged.

Farber (1948) reported findings which suggest fixation resulting from

shock may be the result of anxiety reduction. Wilcoxon (1952) pointed

out that the creation of an insoluble problem resulted in a type of

partial reinforcement for the animal. When he used a partial-reinforce-

ment group in a Maier-type situation, it was more fixated than an in-

soluble problem group. In addition to partial reinforcement and anxiety

reduction, frustration reduction may also contribute to the persistence

of the "fixated" response (Kimble, 1961).

Studies in which electric shock administered after a choice point

was found to facilitate learning (Muenzinger, 1934, 1948; Drew, 1938)

are also relevant. While Muenzinger concluded that shock does not in-

hibit the punished response, but instead makes the animal more sensitive

to the cues to be discriminated, other explanations have been offered.

Mowrer (1950, p. 342) noted that while the wrong response resulted in

non-reinforcement, the correct response, though punished by shock, was

always followed by escape from both hunger and fear. Brown (1955) has

interpreted Muenzinger's results in terms of the shock providing an in-

crement to drive. Thus, the ongoing reaction, since it is dominant in

the situation, will be facilitated rather than disrupted. This inter-

pretation reconciles Muenzinger's results with the multiplicative drive

theory of Hull (1943).

Still another variation of experimentally induced self-punishment

is seen in the present experimental paradigm. The vicious circle

phenomenon involves self-punishing behavior, which also may be extremely

persistent. Previous studies of this phenomenon have been reviewed in

Chapter I. However, it should be noted that the vicious circle phenomenon

differs from the "masochistic" or "fixated" behavior reviewed above,

in that the punished response is motivated solely by fear during the

"extinction" phase. In the studies of "experimental masochism" the

motivation underlying the punished behavior is presumably hunger, while

in Maier's (1949) studies of fixation there is probably a complex

motivational state composed of frustration, hunger, and fear.

Empirical studies of punishmenc.--Since the results of punishment

are directly influenced by the experimental situation, methods, and

type of punishment applied, it is often difficult to form generalizations

from the empirical evidence. Indeed, Stone, in a review of the effects

of punishment in serial learning, has concluded that "...the task: of

resolving conflicting results...is an all but impossible one" (1930,

pp. 197-193). Thus, the present review only covers those studies deemed

to be most relevant. Reviews of the empirical findings on punishment

have been written by Postman (1947), Stone (1950), and Dinsmor (1955).

Quite relevant to the present work is a study by Karsh (1962). She

used an 8-ft. straight alley with a grid floor. Rats were first trained

to run to a goal bo.: in the last section of the alley for food, then

given both food and shock for a number of trials. Karsh found that

punishment reduced running speed in direct relation to the strength of

shock administered. Also, as the number of shock trials increased, the

speed curves dropped according to a deca, function which rapidly approached

an as:.mptoce. Increased training with a food reward did not seem to

increase resistance to punishment, as was reported earlier by Kaufman

and lliller (1949). In fact, Karsh found a tendency for overtraining to

decrease resistance to the effects of the shock. The effect of shock on

running speed was consistently greater nearer the goal than at the

start of the runway.

Differences between the present experimental situation and that

of Karsh (1962) should be noted -- especially the location of the

punishment. In her study, shock was given after the rat had entered

the goal box; more specifically, when the animal touched the food cup.

Also, food deprivation was the drive-establishing operation -- not

previous shock-escape trials, as in the present study.

Although some work has been done on the interrelationship of

punishment and partial reinforcement, this work is not directly com-

parable to the present study because a free-responding technique was

used. For example, Estes (1944) reported that continuous punishment

was more effective initially in suppressing a response, although a

partial schedule led to suppression effects which were more resistant to

extinction. Using pigeons in a free-responding situation, Azrin and his

colleagues have further studied the effects of partial schedules of

punishment (e.g., Azrin, 1959; Azrin & Holz, 1961; Azrin, Holz, & Hake,

1963). Since methodological differences make these studies not directly

comparable to the present one, they are merely noted here without any

further attempt to review them.

Escape Learning

Although escape learning seems to be an important component of the

behavior of many species of animal in their natural habitat, it has not

been a primary technique in laboratory research. Indeed, Spence, in dis-

cussing the role of reinforcement in instrumental learning, commented

that his treatment of the subject "...has been concerned only with reward

learning and not wLth escape conditioning. We have little or no knowledge

concerning the effects of varying the reinforcement (escape from a noxious

ti miulus) in the latter type of situation; hence there has been little

basis for formulating any theory concerning it" (1956, p. 164).

Since 1956, however, several studies of escape learning have been

conducted, providing additional knowledge of the primary variables in-

fluencing this phenomenon. The present review deals with those studies

most relevant to the present experiment; i.e., studies using a discrete

trials procedure, electric shock as the aversive stimulus, and rats as Ss.

The acquisition of an escape response has been shown to be a negatively

accelerated function of the number of acquisition trials (Amsel, 1950;

Sheffield & Tamr er, 1950; Campbell & Kraeling, 1953; Ketchel, 1955; Bower,

1960). Similarly, extinction in an escape situation has been found to

be a negatively accelerating function of number of extinction trials

(Sheffield & Teamer, 1950; Campbell & Kraeling, 1953; Jones, 1953; Bower,

1960). Also, Bower, Fowler, and Trapold (1959) varied the amount of shock

reduction upon escaping into a goal box which had varying intensities of

shock on its grid floor. Their results indicated that the learning of

an escape response was an increasing function of the amount of shock


The empirical evidence is in accord in showing that rate of acquisition

of an escape response is a function of shock intensity (Amsel, 1950; Camp-

bell & Kraeling, L953; Ketchel, 1955, Trapold & Fowler, 1960). The evidence

relating shock intensity to as mptotic performance, however, requires

further clarification. Amsel, as well as Campbell and Kraeling, found

that the performance curves for different intensities converged at a


co-mnon asymptote. Ketchel reported a divergence of the performance

curves for different shock intensities, as did Trapold and Fowler.

Their failure to find different asymptotic performances for different

shock intensities may have been due to the higher intensities used by

Amsel (1950) and Campbell and Kraeling (1953). High intensities may

have led to the animals running at maximum speed, thus imposing an

artificial ceiling on magnitude of response.

Resistance to extinction of an escape response was found to be

greater after ten acquisition trials than after forty by Santos (1960).

However, a more systematic study (Martin, 1962) has shown that resistance

to extinction was an increasing function of the number of training trials

up to sixteen trials. A slight decrease in resistance to extinction

occurred in a 32-trial group, a finding which seems to conform to the

pattern of the results obtained by Santos (1960). Resistance to ex-

tinction has also been found to be a negatively decelerated function

of the delay between training and extinction (Melvin, Martin, & Parsons,

1963). They found a sharp decline in resistance to extinction during the

first 18 min. of delay, with little decline thereafter up to a delay of

162 min.

Studies comparing avoidance learning with escape learning are

relevant to the present study, in that avoidance procedures involve

partial occurrence of shock in avoidance training, animals receive

aversive stimulation only during trials on which they fail to avoid; in

escape training, they receive the aversive stimulus on every trial. Thus,

in the avoidance situation, shock,as well as shock termination, occurs

intermittently. As would be expected from the principle of partial


reinforcement, avoirdnce learning is more resistant to extinction than

escape learning (Sheffield & Te.-ir, 1950, Jones, 1953). Other variables

are present in the avoidance situation, however, which might be responsible

for this result, e.i., variable shock duration and variable location of

shock in the runway.

Jones (1953) found that an intermittent escape schedule, according

to which rats were shocked on only 28 per cent of the training trials,

reiulccd in greater resistance to extinction than a conventional escape

procedure. Jones' intermnittent escape procedure was similar to the

partial reinforcement procedure of the present study. However, there

were certain limitations of technique in Jones' study, i.e., paddling

animals to the goal after ten seconds had elapsed on acquisition and

extLnction trials, the discarding of trials on which rats jumped over

horizontal photocell beams, and manually dropping the animals onto the

grid. Thus, the relationship between partial reinforcement and escape

learning seemed to require further stud;.

One might define the occurrence of partial reinforcement in escape

learning in another marnner. Shock could be given on every training trial,

with etcher shock termination or no shock termination in the goal box.

Bower (1960) has taken rhis approach. Hc reported that acquisition speed

uas an increasing linear function of percentage of reinforcement. In

addition, a 50 per cent reinforced group was more resistant to extinction

than a 100 per cent group. Bower's technique, however, confounds delay

cf reinforcement with per cent of reinforcement, since all anumaals were

removed from the goal box after 20 sec., whether it was electrified or

not. If the 20 Zec. delay period is sufficiently long enough so chat the

withdrawal of the rat from the electrified goal box does not reinforce

the running response, as Bower assumes, then the procedure seems method-

ologically sound. However, the effects of delay of shock termination

on escape learning have not been studied, and this methodological

question remains unresolved.

While the technique used by Jones (1953) and the present study

does not involve the above problem, this technique (intermittent escape

training) does lead to variation of the drive state during training.

During shock trials, the animals perform the running response under

the drive state induced by electric shock -- a stimulus regarded to

be a primary source of drive (Brown, 1961). On interspersed non-shock

training trials, a gradually learned source of drive, fear, serves to

motivate the running response. In instrumental reward learning, however,

the animals perform the response during non-reinforced trials under the

same drive state as on reinforced trials. Thus, the procedure (inter-

mittent occurrence of shock termination) used by Bower (1960) may be more

analogous to studies of partial reinforcement done in a reward learning

context. Intermittent escape training seems, nevertheless, to merit

study in its own right. And, as Spence has noted, the effects of re-

inforcement in instrumental escape learning may be quite different from

those found in instrumental reward learning (1956, p. 164).




Eighty naive male hooded rats ser.'ed as subjects ()s). Twenty-four

rats were of the Long-Evans strain, and the remaining 56 Ss were obtained

from the rat colony of che Department of Psychology, University of Florida.

Rats of both strains were evenly discribuced over the eight experimental

conditions. The Ss were 90 to 135 days old when first introduced into

the experimental apparatus.


The main components of the apparatus were a starting box and a

straight runway, both of whLch had grid floors and glass Lids, plus a

goal box which was fitted with a wooden floor and lid. The starring box

(13 in. I. x 3.5 in. w. x 11.5 in. h., inside) vas divided into an upper

and a lower compartment by a trap-door floor hinged along one edge 7 in.

above the grid floor. A door at the end of the starting box allowed the

5 to be inserted into the upper compartment, and a 4.5 x 3.5 in. barrier

at the alley end of chac compartment prevented the Ss from prematurely

escaping into the alley. Upon release of the crap-door floor, the animal

fell to the grid floor below.

The runway (6 ft. x 3.5 in. w. x 11.5 in. h. inside) was homogeneous

throughout except for narrow wooden strips across cthe top at the 2- and

4-ft. positions. These scrips supported cadnium sulphide photocells


which pointed downward and were energized by infrared light sources

below the grid floor. Other vertical light beams and photocells were

situated at the juncture of the starting box and alley and at the en-

trance to the goal box. Through the use of these devices and associated

electronic equipment, measurements (to the nearest 1/100 sec.) were

made of starting time (the time that elapsed between the moment that

the trap-door floor dropped S onto the grid until he interrupted the

first light beam) and the times consumed in traversing each of three 2-ft.

alley segments. Alley time was computed simply by adding the times

recorded for each of the three 2-ft. segments.

The goal box (18 in. 1. x 10 in. w. x 11.5 in. h., inside) had a

wooden floor and a hinged top, and served as a "safe" region which the

rats could enter to escape shock. In contrast to the starting box and

runway, which were painted light gray, the goal box was painted black.

This contrast may have served to minimize fear in the latter region.

A guillotine door at the entrance to the goal box prevented Ss from


The grid floors were constructed of 3/32 in. stainless steel rods

set into plexiglass side rails at 0.5 in. intervals. The shocking current

(60 cycles A.C.) was provided by a variable-voltage auto-transformer

connected to the grid through a 10,000 ohm series resistor. The six

1-ft. grid segments in the runway and the 18-in. segment under the start-

ing box were wired so that they could be selectively energized. The open

circuit voltage across the grid sections was measured by a voltmeter, and

the shock intensities given in the "procedure" section were read from

this meter.

A buzzer mounted on the side of the starring box served as a CS, pro-

ducing both a clearly audible sound and .vibrations of the starting box.

During its operation, it was turned on and off at 0.5 sec. intervals by

a motor-driven interrupter. The sound level in the starting box was

measured b:' a General FRdio sound level meter ("C"-scale weighting). It

was l1 db. (re: .0002 dy-nes/c.2) without the buzzer turned on, and it

increased to SO db. when the buzzer was added, and to 87 db. when the

relay which released the trap-door floor was activated.

Exrprim.'rntal De ien

The Ss, divided into three major groups, were rained to escape shock

b: running the length of the alley into a "safe" goal box. One of the

three major groups (N=20) received 100 per cent negative reinforcement,

i.e. they received shock on every acquisition trial. A second group

(N=30) received shock on 67 per cent of the acquisition trials, while the third

group 4N=30) was given shock on a 33 per cent schedule during acquisition.

For the partially reinforced groups, shock was assigned randomly

within ever/ six trials, with the following restrictions: (a) shock was

assigned randomly within ever: three trials on the two days having only;

;.ree training trials, and (b) shock was always present on the first and

last trial of an acquisition day, except for the 33 per cent reinforced

group which did not receive shock on the last trial of the first acquisition

day and the first trial of the last acquisition day.

Following training, the three groups were subdivided in the following

manner. The group which received 100 per cent negative reinforcement during

training was divided into cvo groups of ten Sa each. One of these groups

(Group 100-US) received no shock during "extinction 1" while the other group

(Group 100-100) was shocked in the last 4 ft. of the alley on every ex-

tinction trial. The first term in the group code refers to training, the

second to "extinction," with the number referring to the percentage of

trials with shock present and "NS" meaning no shock was present on any

trial. The group receiving 67 per cent shock trials during training was

subdivided into three groups of ten animals each. Group 67-NS received

no shock during extinction, while Group 67-100 received shock in the last

4 ft. of the alley on every extinction trial. A third group, Group 67-67,

received the same percentage of shock trials (in the last 4 ft. of the

runway) in extinction as they had (in the entire runway) in training. A

similar division was made of the group receiving a 33 per cent shock

schedule during training, resulting in Groups 33-NS 33-33, and 33-100.

Each group contained ten Ss. All assignments of Ss to conditions were

made randomly.


Preliminary training.--Five days before the Ss were introduced into

the apparatus they were put on a regular feeding schedule calling for

approximately 14 gm. of Purina laboratory chow per day. Water was available

in the living cages at all times. All experimental trials were given when

the Ss were approximately 22 hr. hungry. During the last two days of the

preliminary period the rats were handled for a few min. each day.

The next two-day period was devoted to habituation training, each S

being permitted to explore all sections of the apparatus for 10 min. per

day. On the first day the rat was manually placed onto the grid floor

of the starting box, while on the second day it was placed into the upper

compartment of the starting box and dropped onto the grid floor. During

both days the rat -pent apprc.xi.acel,,' 80 min. in individual adjoining

ccmpartrc-ntc which measured 8 in. w. x 8.5 in. 1. x 8 in. h., inside


On th nre::t and all subsequent days the Sr received 12 trials per

da:. The first nine trials on which the Ss received shock were shaping

trials in ihich all animals received identical treatment. Trials i and

2 of these nine trials were run with the 6-rt. alley removed and the

starting box connected directly c.to the goal nox. The shock was set ac

S0 v. The third and fourth of these nine trials were then given with a

temporary 2-ft. alle:, incrted between the starting and goal boxes, and

a shock of 45 v. Trials 5 and 6 were then administered with a temporary

4-ft. alley and a shock of 50 v. During trial: 7, and 9, the entire

b-ft. runway was used, and the shock was se t 55 v.

During shaping, training and extinction, an intertrial interval of

9-11 min. was employed. The folio: ing procedure was also standard for

all three phases. On every trial the S was placed into the starting

comiarrment through the end door, after which the guillotine door at the

entrance to the goal box Was -iredLately raised. The latter event in-

itiaced the following automaricall, timed sequence of events. (a) after

a 4 sec. delay the buzzer began to sound, fc.llowed 3 sec. later by (b)

the closing of a relay, which released the trap-door floor. The buzzer

continued to sound until the infrared beam at the entrance to the goal

box was interrupted, an event ihich also stopped the third-segment clock.

The rat was permitted to remain in the dark goal box with the door closed

for appro:
cage to await the next trial. The Sa ucre run in squads replicationss)


of eight, each animal representing one condition. The daily food ration

was allotted to each S approximately 15 min. after it had been returned

to its home cage.

Training.--Immediately (9-11 min.) after the completion of the nine

shaping trials the Ss were given three training trials. All training

trials were given with the shock set at 60 v. and using the 6-ft. alley.

The Ss received shock on 33, 67, or 100 per cent of the trials, depend-

ind on the group to which they had been assigned. On the next training

day all 12 trials were training trials. The following day's trials

consisted of three training trials and then nine extinction trials, with

no interruption at the end of training.

"Extinction ."--During extinction no S was ever given shock in the

18 in. starting section or the first 2 ft. of the runway. Groups 100-NS,

67-NS and 33-NS never received shock in any part of the alley during ex-

tinction. Groups 100-100, 67-100, and 33-100 were given shock in the

last 4 ft. of the alley on every trial. Groups 67-67 and 33-33 received

shock in the last 4 ft. of the alley on 67 or 33 per cent of the extinction

trials respectively. When present in only the last 4 ft. of the alley

(i.e., in "extinction"), the shock was set at 45 v.

As was indicated above, immediately following the last three training

trials, the Ss were given nine extinction trials. Thus, an animal had a

9-11 min. intertrial interval between its last training trial and first

extinction trial. This procedure was initiated to reduce the number of

Ss which might extinguish on the very first trial of extinction. Extinction

trials were continued for seven additional days at the rate of 12 trials

per day, provided the Ss continued to run. If an animal failed to reach


and enter the goal box within a criterion time of 60 sec., extinction

trials were discontinued and arbitrary time scores of 60 sec. were entered

for that S.

The median was taken as the best measure of an animal's performance

for any one day, and its reciprocal was the unit used in the analysis

of variance of the data. Speed scores in ft./sec. were obtained by

multiplying the reciprocals by appropriate distance constants.




Since performance during extinction was the main concern of the

present study, no extensive analysis of the training data was made.

Data for the last training trial were analyzed, however, since (a)

this trial represented the relative performance of the groups immediately

prior to extinction and (b) shock was present for all Ss on this trial,

thus all groups had a relatively equivalent amount of shock-produced D

present during this trial.

In order to convert alley running time into speed, each S's

time score on the last training trial was converted into its reciprocal.

Means and standard deviations of these data for all eight groups are

shown in Table 1 in the Appendix. The means of the eight experimental

groups were compared in a simple analysis of variance, which revealed

virtually no effect of "groups" (F<1) for these data. A summary of this

analysis of variance is found in Table 2 of the Appendix.

Number of Trials to Extinction

Figure 1 shows the mean number of trials to extinction for each of

the eight groups. It is obvious in the figure that shock in the last 4 ft.

of the alley on 100 per cent of "extinction" trials led to greater resistance

to extinction than no shock, regardless of the percentage of shock trials

during training. This, of course, reflects the "vicious circle" phenomenon.


< 0

o0 x 2z
0_z z
0 -

-- -0
W Z n

C "
Z z

o ,,
w -

( I r I C =
0 0 0 0 0

0 \ \ r0 0


o M- N /

NZZ cn0
o 0o

LA ^t '* ro r() Cj CJ '
N0IJ.ONI1 X3 01 S1Vlti. i0 'ON N/3YVJ

A two by three factorial analysis of variance for groups 100-100, 67-100,

33-100, 100-NS, 67-NS, and 33-NS indicated that this effect was highly

significant (p<.001). A summary of this analysis is shown in Table 3

in the Appendix.

Contrary to expectation, partial shock schedules in training did not

appear to facilitate performance of the groups receiving 100 per cent

shcok in extinction. If anything, a reverse trend occurred, as is shown

in Figure 1. The effect of percentage of shock trials during training

on performance in extinction for Ss receiving no shock in extinction (Groups

100-NS, 67-NS, and 33-NS) was consistent with expectations. However, since

the F ratio for the interaction effect failed to reach significance (refer

to Table 3), further evaluation (post mortem) seemed unjustified. A main

effect of percentage of shock during training was, as the figure shows,


To evaluate the "discrimination hypothesis" as applied to the facili-

tative effects of shock in the present situation, Groups 67-100 and 33-100

were compared with Groups 67-67 and 33-33 in a two by two factorial analysis

of variance. A summary of this analysis is shown in Table 4 in the Appendix.

The groups shifted to 100 per cent shock trials in extinction were significant-

ly more resistant to extinction than groups (67-67 and 33-33) receiving the

same percentage of shock trials in extinction as during training (p<.05).

The above differences are also clearly indicated in Figure 1. In this

analysis, the difference due to percentage of shock trials and the inter-

action effect were not significant. The results of this analysis fail to

support the discrimination hypothesis as an explanation of the facilitative

effects of shock in this type of situation. They are, however, in accord

witr the theoretici explanations of C.oth Mowrer (1950) and Cuthrie (1935).

This ccrclusion is further supported tb an eravnriation of the differ-

ences mon,; Groups 100-100, 67-6?, and !3-33. According to a "perceptual

change" or discrimination hyothesis, these groups should be equally

resistant to extinc.ion, since trie e :perinccd "equal" change from

acquisition to ex:rnction. An examination of Figure I rev-alst chat this

was not the caze; the higher the percentage of shock trials, the greater

a3s the resistance to extinction. A simple analysis of variance (see

Table 5 in the Appendix) revealed a significant "groups" effect (p<.05).

This upward trend can C.e attributed completely to percentage of -hock

during ei.tinction since, when there is zero shock during extinction, the

trend is in a downward direction.

Alie" Sp-ed

To evaluate the effect of introd.c in.. shock during the per fcrinance

of a responpse (or a homogeneous chain of responses), alley speed was

employed as another dependent variable.

Figure 2 shoi-s the speed in which the entire 6 ft. allet; was traversed

b, each of the eight groups over four e-:tinctic.n days. Each pc nt represents

a mean of ten reciprocals which has been multiplied b: six to yield ft./sec.

Each of the reciprocal Was based on an individual S's median running cimen

for the daitL trials.

A mixed factorial analysis of variance (Lindquist, i956) performed on

the data for Groups 100-S3, 67-NS, 33-l;S, 0-i100, 6?-100, and 3--100,

ISin:e all Ss in two of the groups had extinguished ty the fourth da',
onil' data from the first three da:, were used in the statistical
anal.,ses of the speed measures.


00 0 (cn) I
I I i
f--0 ro t-O 6
ro(D 0 ro w

I, T

o o
o o



O(D 4J



O 10

0 0

0 0 C
o /

4- ------



showed a highly significant effect for 100 per cent versus no shock during

extinction (p<.001). This analysis is summarized in Table 6 of the Appendix.

AaiLn, the administration of shock in the last 4 ft. of the alley was

found to prolong the extinction process, i.e., the "vicious circle" phenome-

non occurred.

Extinction, however, did take place, as the "days" effect was signifi-

cant (p<.001). The interaction of "days" by extinction treatments was

also significant (p<.001), groups receiving shock during extinction having

a lower rate of extinction than non-shocked groups, in addition to running

faster overall days. The interactions of percentage of shock trials during

training with either "days" or extinction conditions were not significant.

To evaluate certain theories of the facilitative effects of shock in

this type of situation, a comparison was made of Groups 67-100 and 33-100

with Groups 67-67 and 33-33. Figure 2 indicates that the two groups that

received 100 per cent shock in extinction were superior to the groups that

received identical percentages of shock trials in both training and extinct-

ion. Analysis of variance (refer to Table 7 of the Appendix) revealed that

this effect was highly significant (p<.001). Thus, the results support

the theories of HIowrer (1950) and Guthrie (1935), rather than a dis-

crImnMation or perceptual change theory. A further test of the latter

theory waL mide through a comparison of Groups 100-100, 67-67, and 33-33.

If the discrimination hypothesis is regarded as a complete explanation of

the facilitative effects of shock, then no differences between these groups

should have been presence. Some systematic ditierences are evident in Figure

2; houbver, the: failed to reach an acceptable level of a lgnti cance (F=2.5,

df=Z/27, p<.10). A sur.-ry of thi; analysis of .'ariance is shown in Table 3

of the Append I::.

Section 1 Speed

Of primary importance was a comparison of group speeds in the first

section of the runway. By means of such a comparison the effects of

shock in extinction could be evaluated without the inclusion of the

energizing effect of the shock on the specific response. That is, the

behavior in section 1 was followed by punishment (shock), rather than the

punishment being introduced during the behavior, as occurs in the total

running response and in all other sections.

The running speed data for the first section of the alley are shown

in Figure 3. As the curves in this figure indicate, speed of running

decreased over days for all groups. Although groups receiving continuous

shock (Groups 100-100, 67-100, and 33-100) or no shock during extinction

(Groups 100-NS, 67-NS, and 33-NS) showed negligible differences on the

first day, on the following days the shocked groups were superior. The

analysis of variance for these data (refer to Table 9 in the Appendix)

showed that the effect of shock versus no shock in extinction did not

reach an acceptable level of significance, (F=3.37, df=l/54, p<.10). How-

ever, the interaction of the above effect with "days" was significant

(p<.05), indicating that the presence of shock significantly lowered the

rate of extinction, even in a section of the runway containing no shock.

Percentage of reinforcement during training did not produce any notice-

able systematic effects on this response measure, and the statistical analysis

(shown in Table 9) revealed no significant differences.

In order to test certain theoretical explanations of the facilitative

effects of shock, Groups 67-100 and 33-100 were compared with Groups 67-67

and 33-33. Although Figure 2 indicates that the 100 per cent shock groups



I I r I I I I I
,oo, "o
Sh oo -o 0o r

.c i

C 3 i

,* ,

o o o o

/ ro c- -

o ~ I.J h-

were superior, thus favoring Mowrer's theory over a discrimination theory,

the differences were not statistically significant. Table 10 in the

Appendix presents a summary of the analysis of variance.

An examination of the relative performance of Groups 100-100, 67-67,

and 33-33 is also pertinent to the evaluation of the theoretical expla-

nations. The discrimination hypothesis would predict equal resistance

to extinction for these three groups. As did previous response measures,

Section 1 speed revealed systematic differences favoring, respectively,

Group 100-100, 67-67, and 33-33. However, a statistical analysis of these

data provided no basis for rejecting the null hypothesis (refer to Table 11

in the Appendix).

Speed Across Sections

Running speed in the three alley sections averaged over three ex-

tinction days is shown in Figure 4. It is apparent that Ss that received

on every trial (in the last two sections of the alley) tended to

accelerate, whereas non-shocked rats ran progressively slower as they

approached the goal. Analysis of variance applied to these data yielded

a highly significant sections by extinction treatments interaction (p<.001).

These results are still another manifestation of the vicious circle phe-

nomenon and illustrate how the administration of shock changed the course

of the running response. A summary of this analysis can be found in Table 12

of the Appendix.

The only other significant effect in this analysis was the main effect

of 100 per cent versus no shock trials in extinction (p<.001). This find-

ing is essentially a replication of the extinction treatments main effect

as shown previously in the analysis of variance for alley speed (refer to

Table 6).


I ro

('03S/'1I) 33dS NV3W





w >

O 4)
_J -=



N >




Curves for the groups that received a partial shock schedule during

extinction (Groups 67-67 and 33-33) tended to differ from one another.

Figure 4 shows that, while Group 67-67 tended to perform similarly to

the groups receiving shock on every extinction trial, Group 33-33 per-

formed in the same manner as did the non-shocked groups.

When compared with Groups 67-100 and 33-100, a statistical analysis

indicated that the partial shock groups (67-67 and 33-33) ran significantly

slower (p<.001). The effect of "sections" was also significant (p<.001),

the Ss tending to run faster as they progressed down the alley. This

finding is qualified, however, by the fact that both the interaction of

extinction treatments with "sections" and the triple interaction were

significant (p<.001; p<.01). These findings were interpreted as reflect-

ing the different trend shown by Group 33-33, which showed a decrement

in speed in section 3 (whereas the other three groups showed an increment).

A summary of the analysis of variance for these data is shown in Table 13.



Fcrilit-tive Effects of PFunishmen

Ihe results of this study ~t.o' hat, contrary to its usual role,

punishmen facilitateJ the performance of the punished act. EB means

of ce tain experimental procedure., animals were trained co consist. cent

approach a normal, avoecr-ive s imuius This pers icence in -:elf-punishment,

or "vicious circle" behavior, ua- reflecrcd in all che repons-e measures

obtained: section 1 speed, alley speed, speed 5radients o.er secticn, and

number of trials to e.;rtnc ion. Section 1 speel is especially important,

as ia enables us to look at an approach response which leads to punish-

r:.cn, yet is facilicated b, this punr:n:.-:en. The alley speed measure pro-

vides an example of a response which is punished in itc latter Ctages,

yet, it, too, wa- :trenthenred by tr- adminit:rat ion of Funihmenrt.

Under the conv-entionai assumption thac puniinhmenc should deter or

u .al.en reactions, it would be e.
ment, the more the response should be suppressed. In general, the reverse

occurred. Croups receiving chock on every extinction trial not only out-

performed non- hocked groups, but outperformed groups which received shock

on sore percentage (33 or 67) of extinction cri.al also.

This latter finding is relevant to the findLne of Broi.nr et al. (in pr:ss)

that the n.ore sections of the alley which vere electrified, the greater was

the resistance to extinction. Gwinn (1949) has shown that a moderate

punishing shock led to greater performance than a weak shock -- a find-

ing also in opposition to a simple punishment hypothesis.

In general, the results of the present experiment are in accord with

the previous findings of Whiteis (1956), Gwinn (1949), Solomon et al. (1953),

and Brown et al. (in press) and are contrary to the findings of Moyer (1955,

1957) and Seward and Raskin (1960). Brown et al. have discussed possible

reasons for the previous failures to obtain the vicious circle phenomenon.

They maintained that the intensity of the punishing stimulus should be

moderate, the to-be-punished response should be well established, and that

the shift from training to extinction must be gradual. It should be noted

that the present study, which in general met these requirements, was able

to demonstrate the facilitative effects of punishment quite clearly in

this situation.

Although most of the Ss eventually extinguished, two rats, both in

Group 100-100, ran the full 93 trials with little diminution in speed. It

might be said that these animals were, indeed, caught in a "vicious circle."

Theoretical considerations.--Brown et al. have considered three

theoretical explanations of the vicious circle phenomenon. One such ex-

planation is that of Mowrer (1950), who emphasized the role of conditioned

fear in the maintenance of this type of perseverative behavior. According

to Mowrer, fear is conditioned to the cues present in the start box and

alley during the original escape training. During extinction this fear

drives the S to the goal box, thus reducing the fear and reinforcing the

running response. However, in performing the act the animal also gets shock-

ed, thus preventing or retarding the process of fear extinction which might,


otherwise, lead to the extinction of the running response. Moirer (1960)

also suggested that the fear elicited by shock in the latter part of the

alley might generalize back down the alley to the starting section. He

held that this effect could result from a failure of discrimination,

citing evidence from Whiteis (1956) to support this contention. Whiteis

had found that if the shock area was clearly marked off from the non-

shock area, SS did not get into and persist in the "vicious circle." Also,

Brown et al (in press) have noted that shock reduction is also a strong

reinforcer for running, and that shock onset should energize in-progress

running responses. Thus, shock becomes not onl:, a signal for fear re-

duction but for shock termination. It may be that the ihock onset re-

inforces the rat's fear, but that cues present when the S is running

through the shock become secondarily reinforcing, since, according to

Mowrer (1960), a cue signalling the termination of fear and pain should

come to elicit "hope."

Mowrer assumes that fear is established through a process of classical

conditioning, a working assumption for many experimenters (Brown, 1961).

The importance of chis assumption in the present situation is discussed


Another theory possessing explanatory value in the present context is

chat of Cuthrie (1934, 1935). According to his concept of negative adaptation,

noxious stimuli lose their power to evoke escape responses if repeatedly pre-

sented when responses that are incompatible with escape are prepotent. Thus,

the noxious stimulus loses its negative properties to the degree that it

becomes a conditioned cue for the incompatible responses. Cuthrie stated

that "It is not the feeling caused by punishment, but the specific action

caused by punishment that determines what will be learned" (1934, pp. 457-

458). During escape training, then, the shock became a cue for responses

of running forward. In extinction, the shocked animals persisted longer

in running because shock in the last 4 ft. of the runway evoked and main-

tained forward-going behavior.

Another interpretation of the vicious circle phenomenon can be made

in terms of a "discrimination" or "perceptual change" hypothesis. Such

a hypothesis states that the greater the similarity between acquisition

and extinction conditions, the greater the resistance to extinction. Thus,

if shock was used in training, Ss shocked (in part of the alley) during

extinction experienced less of a change from training to extinction than

did animals receiving no shock during extinction, and, thus, should ex-

tinguish more slowly.

An attempt was made to evaluate the relative applicability of the

latter explanation by running two groups with intermittent shock schedules.

If the discrimination hypothesis is an adequate explanation of the facilita-

tive effects of shock in this type of situation, it would follow that groups

receiving identical percentages of shock during training and extinction

(67-67 and 33-33) should be superior to groups shifted to a higher per-

centage of shock in extinction (67-100 and 33-100). Both Mowrer's and

Guthrie's theory, however, would predict the reverse to occur.

It should be noted that (relevant to Mowrer's theory) the extinction

situation is really the continuation of an acquisition series for the con-

ditioning of fear for Ss shocked in the latter part of the alley. If one

assumes that fear is classically conditioned, as does Mowrer (1950, 1960),

groups on a continuous shock schedule during extinction (67-100 and 33-100)

would be more fearful during extinction than partially reinforced groups

(67-67 and 33-33). This conclusion is based on a number of studies show-

ing that the acquisition of a classically conditioned response is serious-

ly retarded by partial reinforcement (Pavlov, 1927, Grant & Schipper, 1952;

Razran, 1955; Rey.nolds, 1958). Thus, the hLgher the percentage of shock

trials during extinction, the more fear would be present to motivate the

running response, if, as Mourer has hypothesized, this fear generalizes

throughout the allee.

The bulk of the evidence obtained in the present study indicates

that groups shifted to 100 per cent shock during extinction were more

resistant to extinction than those continued on their original shock

schedule. These findings are consistent with either Mo-rer's or Guthrie's

theory, and are in opposition to a discrimination or perceptual change


Further evidence against the discrimination hypothesis as an ex-

planation of thLs behavior was found through an examination of the relative

resistance to extinction of Groups 100-100, 67-67, and 33-33. If one

accepts the discrimination hypothesis as an explanation of the vicious circle

phenomenon, it follows that these three groups (which experienced "equal"

change from acquisition to extinction) would be equally resistant to ex-

tinction. The results indicate that this was not the case, on all measures,

the greatest resistance to extinction was found in Group 100-100, Group 67-67

was intermediate, and Group 33-33 was the least resistant. Although the

differences between the groups were significant only in the case of number

of trials to extinction, the consistency of the findings, in conjunction

with the previous comparisons, casts serious doubt upon the ability of a


simple discrimination hypothesis to account for these data. Moreover,

the above mentioned finding (that the higher the percentage of extinction

shock, the more resistance there was to extinction) is supportive of both

Mowrer's and Guthrie's theory. This upward trend can be attributed com-

pletely to percentage of shock during extinction since, when there is no

shock during extinction, the trend is in a downward direction. This find-

ing, that the more frequent the punishment, the more the punished act was

facilitated, is the reverse of what would be expected according to a

simple punishment hypothesis. Gwinn (1949) also compared groups which

received either 33 or 100 per cent shock during extinction, finding no

significant differences between them. However, he had predicted that

the group receiving shock on every extinction trial would be superior,

on the basis that the fear-drive motivating the punished act would increase

with the frequency of punishment.

Effects of Partial Reinforcement upon Resistance to Extinction of an
Escape Response

The results indicate that there was a consistent trend for the groups

which received shock on 67 or 33 per cent of the training trials to be

more resistant to extinction than a group shocked on every training trial.

However, none of the comparisons were statistically significant. The

direction of the differences was in accord with the results of a related

study by Jones (1953), who interpreted his findings in terms of the dis-

crimination hypothesis. During intermittent escape training, there are

certain trials on which no UCS is presented, these trials being identical

to extinction trials. Thus, this procedure makes the acquisition con-

ditions more similar to extinction conditions than does a training schedule

involving shock on every trial. However, we have already seen that this

theory received little support in the present data.

Both the results obtained by Jones and those of the present study

can be interpreted in terms of Mowrer's (1950) two-factor theory. Accord-

ing to Mowrer, fear, in this type of situation, is classically conditioned

to the cues present in the alley during training. The running response,

however, is instrumentally conditioned through the mechanism of drive

reduction (which is, in this case, shock termination). The lack of

significant results found by the present study might be attributed to

the differential effects of partial reinforcement on classical as opposed

to instrumental conditioning. It has been shown chat the acquisition,

and in some cases the resistance to extinction, of a classically con-

ditioned response is seriously retarded by low percentages of reinforce-

ment (Pavlov, 1927; Grant & Schipper, 1952; Razran, 1955; Reynolds, 1958;

Lewis, 1960). On the other hand, a number of studies have shown that

partial reinforcement leads to greater resistance to extinction (of

instrumentally conditioned responses) than continuous reinforcement (Lewis,

1960). Thus, the use of an intermittent escape procedure miLht have led

to less conditioned fear but also to the establisluhent of a more stable

running response. These results would more or less cancel each ocher, and

thus have led to the lack of significant differences found among the three

groups which received different percentages of reinforcement.

The above explanation, however, does not account for Jones' (1953)

finding that intermittent escape training led to greater resistance to

extinction than did a continuous escape procedure. Intermittent escape

training may have a slight facilitative effect on resistance to extinction,

as was found by the present study. This slight effect may have been


increased by an artifact in the procedure used by Jones. In Jones' study,

after 10 sec. (during both acquisition and extinction), if the S had not

entered the goal box, he was paddled into it. Thus, during acquisition

the intermittent escape group received non-shock (i.e., extinction)

trials on which, if they had not made the response within the time limit,

they were paddled to the goal. This procedure is the classical paradigm

for avoidance learning, if paddling is considered aversive (which does

not seem unreasonable, since Jones used this technique to drive the Ss

into the goal box). The continuous escape group never received paddling

during acquisition in the absence of a shock. Thus, the greater resistance

to extinction found in Jones' intermittent escape group might have been

due to this "extra" avoidance training.

Effects of Partial Reinforcement during Training on the Facilitative Effects
of Punishment

Partial reinforcement during training did not lead to an enhancement

of the vicious circle effect, as had been expected. In fact, the 100-100

group tended to be the most resistant to extinction, as well as being the

fastest group in the first section of the alley. However, Group 33-33 and

Group 67-67 were faster, respectively, in both the second and third sections

of the alley. None of these differences were statistically significant.

It is probable that any effects of the different training reinforcement

schedules were over-ridden by the powerful effects of receiving shock on

every extinction trial. Since differential training schedules did not

even have a strong (i.e., significant) effect upon resistance to extinction

of groups receiving no extinction shock, the above explanation seems ten-

able. In any case, the facilitative effects of punishment on resistance

co extinction (i.e., the vicious circle phenomenon) can be demonstrated

through the use of an intermittent as well as a continuous escape train-

ing procedure.

SpeeJ Gradiencs Acros; Alle Sections

Another point of interest concerning the three groups rhich were ntcc

shocked during extinction relates to hne speed gradlencs (refer to Figure .).

These groups (100-11S, 67-liS, and 33-NS) -houed a progressive decrement in

speed over the three alley sections, whereas all che shocked groups (with the

exception of Group 33-13) increased speed in sections 2 and 3. Similar

curves were shown by Brown er al. (in press) for their "shorc-shock" and

"no-shock" groups, except chac cheir short-shock group showed less of a

speed increment in the second section. This difference was to be ex-

pected, since in their study the second section was non-electrified for

this group, while in the present study this section '-'as electrified.

The increase in speed found in Groups 100-100, 67-100, 33-100, and

67-67 can be attributed simply to the energizing effects of shock on

the running hat-ic. However, these data do reflect the fact chat the

animals continued to run through the electrified Seuments of the runwa:.

The fa ct hac che three escape learning groups showed a progressive

decrement in speed over sections during extinction is rather interesting.

Man' psychologists have assumied that, in the eAtinction situation, fear

is the source of drive, and that fear reduction occurs as the S enters

the gozl box. This reduction of speed as the S nears the goal, however,

is the opposite of the usual form of the goal gradient. In fact, it is

more similar to an avoidance gradient, e.g., Brown (19-S), if one con-

siders that the rearer to the start box the S is, the faster he is running

away from it, and that shock onset occurred in the start box. However,

the animals were not shocked just in the start box, but throughout the


Two explanations of this "reverse goal gradient" seemed to have

potential usefulness. It may be that since UCS onset occurs in the start

box, both the start box and that end of the alley were more fear-arousing,

since the onset of a noxious UCS has been found to be an important vari-

able controlling the strength of fear (Mowrer & Solomon, 1954; Kimble,

1961). Thus, as the S ran down the alley, his fear, and consequently his

running speed, diminished.

The second explanation involves the possibility that both pro-

prioceptive and external cues in the latter section of the alley become

associated with shock termination, therefore acquiring secondary reinforce-

ment properties (Crowder, 1959; Mowrer, 1960). According to Mowrer, "hope"

or "type-2 secondary reinforcement" would become conditioned to these cues --

a process which might have resulted in a reduction of fear near the goal.

Either or both of these explanations might account for this reverse goal


General Considerations

A final note on the relationship between the "experimental self-punish-

ment" established in the present study and other pathological behavior seems

in order. Inasmuch as this type of perseverative behavior involves con-

sistent approach to normally aversive stimuli, Brown et al. (in press) have

labeled it "masochistic-like." Yet, human masochism is commonly thought

of as a phenomenon in which pain becomes an end in itself, i.e., the

maso~- .- is rewarded rather than punished by pain. If this conception is


true, it offers no small problem for homeostatic notions of motivation

and behavior. Quite relevant to this problem is a comment by Mowrer,

who stated that "As Brown (1955) has pointed out, all goal seeking

behavior involves a detour 'through pain' -- be it only the factor of

effort, apprehension, or the like; and it is only when the 'punishment'

is great and obvious, with the satisfaction subtle or obscure, that con-

fusion arises" (1960, p. 436). In situations where the "detour through

pain" facilitates an original non-adaptive response, the organism may

be then caught in the vicious circle. The solution to the practical

problem of "breaking" such a vicious circle undoubtedly lies in a further

understanding of chose conditions under whLch it is established and




The present experiment explored the effects of different percentages

of punishment during both acquisition and extinction on the resistance

to extinction of an escape response. In certain situations, some in-

vestigators have shown that punishment does not hasten the extinction

of an escape response, but rather leads to a marked increase in resistance

to extinction. Mowrer has referred to this type of behavior as the

"vicious circle" phenomenon.

Eighty hooded rats were divided into eight groups of ten Ss each.

All Ss were trained to escape from an electrified start box and 6-ft.

alley into a safe goal box. During training, shock was present on 33,

67, or 100 per cent of the trials, depending on the condition to which

the rat was assigned. During subsequent "extinction" trials, shock was

never present in the start box or the first 2-ft. of the alley. However,

certain groups received shock in the last 4-ft. of the runway during 33,

67, or 100 per cent of these trials. Three other groups never received

shock during extinction. These procedures resulted in the formation of

the following groups: 100-NS, 67-NS, 33-NS; 100-100, 67-100, 33-100;

and 67-67 and 33-33 (the first numbers refer to the percentage of shock

during training, the second to the extinction percentage, and NS represents

the no shock condition).

The response measures were: (a) number of trials to extinction (b)

alley running speed and (c) running speed in each of the 2-ft. alley


The results indicated that the groups which received shock on every

extinction trial (100-100, 67-100, and 33-100) were the most resistant to

extinction. There were no significant differences among these three

groups. Intermediate in terms of extinction performance was Group 67-67.

The remaining groups (100-NS, 67-NS, 33-NS, and 33-33) were the least

resistant to extinction. Of the three non-shocked (during extinction)

groups, the partially reinforced groups were consistently but non-signifi-

cantly more resistant to extinction than a continuously reinforced group.

Groups shifted to a 100 per cent shock schedule in extinction (33-100 and

67-100) were more resistant to extinction than groups continued on the

same percentage (33-33 and 67-67).

The major conclusions were:

1. Contrary to what a simple punishment hypothesis would predict,

punishment on every extinction trial led to an increase in the resistance

to extinction of an escape response. This "vicious circle" phenomenon

occurred regardless of the percentage of reinforcement during training.

2. In general, the more frequent the punishment, the more the punished

act was sustained.

3. The percentage of reinforcement durLng training did not have any

siniLficant effect on the facilitative effects of punishment.

4. A consistent trend was found for partially reinforced groups to

be more resistant to conventional extinction than a continuously reinforced

group, in the three groups which received no shock during extinction.


5. Different speed gradients across the segments of the runway

were found, depending on whether or not shock was present during ex-

tinction. In general, non-shocked groups ran progressively slower as

they neared the goal, whereas shocked groups accelerated as they pro-

gressed down the runway.

6. The results are in opposition to a discrimination or perceptual

change hypothesis, and are in accord with Mowrer's two-factor theory.

Guthrie's concept of "negative adaptation" also seems applicable to the

vicious circle phenomenon.






100-NS 67-NS 33-NS 100-100 67-100 33-100 67-67 33-33

Mean .677

SD .4897



















Source SS df MS F

Groups .152 7 .022

Error (within cells) 1.341 72 .026



Source SS df MS F

A (LOO per cent versus
no shock trials in
extinction) 3,405.07

B (percentage of shock
trials dizrir.g
training) 32.40

AB 1,100.13

Error (uiLhin cells)IA,006.80

1 3,405.07




13. 13*-*


Note: In the above and In all following tables, *indicates a

result significant at the .05 level, **a result significant at the

.O0 Level, and ***a result significant at the .001 level.




Source SS df MS F

A (100 per cent shock
trials in extinction
versus same per-
centage in extinc-
tion as in training) 970.20 1 970.20 4.51*

B (percentage of shock
trials during train-
ing) 378.20 1 378.10 1.79

AB 198.12 37 5.35

Error (within cells) 8,568.93 39 211.25



Source SS df MS F

Percentage of shock
trials during
training and ex-


Error (within cells) 12,086.50

2 1614.25

27 447.65







Source SS df MS F

Becreen subjects

A (100 per cent
versus no shock
trials in ex-

B (percentage of
shock trials dur-
ing training)


Error (b)

Within subjects

C (days)




Error (w)






4. 598







1 2.680









24. iL-**

61.- 0*





Source SS df MS F

Between subjects 6.583 39

A (100 per cent shock
trials in extinction
versus same percent-
age in extinction as
in training) 1.109 1 1.109 7.49***

B (percentage of
shock trials
during extinction) .023 1 .023

AB .132 1 .132

Error (b) 5.319 36 .148

Within subjects 2.768 80

C (days) 1.405 2 .702 41.29***

AC .047 2 .024 1.41

BC .010 2 .005

ABC .066 2 .033 1.94

Error (w) 1.240 72 .017




Source SS df MS F

Between subjects

A (percentage of shock
trials in training
and extinction)

Error (b)

lichin subjects

E (days)


Error (w) 1
















Source SS df MS F

Between subjects 73.687

A (100 per cent versus
no shock trials in
extinction) 4.269

B (percentage of
shock trials during
training) .197

AB .763

Error (b) 68.458

Within subjects

C (days)




Error (w)








1 4.269
















Source SS df MS F

Between subjects


A (100 per cent shock
trials in extinction
versus same percent-
age in extinction as
in training) 3.654

B (percentage of shock
trials during train-
ing) .001

Error (b)

UIthi subjects

C (days)









7.927 46.09*-k


12.100 72

Error (u)





Source SS df MS F

Between subjects

A (percentage of shock
trials in training
and extinction)

Error (b)

Within subjects

B (days)


Error (w)

42.297 29


















Source SS df MS F

Between subjects 80.949

A (100 per cent versus
no shock trials in
extinction) 23.516

B (percentage of shock trials
during training) 1.114

AB .645

Error (b) 55.674

Within subjects

C (sections)




Error (w)

23.516 22.81***





















Source SS df MS F

Between subjects 57.284 39

A (100 per cent shock
trials in extinction
versus same percent-
age as in training) 10.361 1 10.361 8.20***

B (percentage of shock
trials during train-
ing) .266 1 .266

AB 1.228 1 1.228

Error (b) 45.469 36 1.263

Within subjects 7.238 80

C (sections) 1.635 2 8.18 15.25***

AC .910 2 .455 8.59***

BC .255 2 .128 2.41

ABC .593 2 .296 5.59**

Error (w) 3.845 72 .053


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Kenneth Boyd Melvin, Jr., was born at Jamaica, New York, on August 6,

1934. He graduated from Mineola High School in 1952. After attending

Hofstra College, L. I., N. Y., for two years, he entered the U. S. Army,

and was honorably discharged in 1956. In September, 1957, he returned

to Hofstra College and graduated with a B. A. in psychology in February, 1960.

During his senior year at Hofstra and the summer of 1960 he was employed

as a research assistant by Human Resources Foundation, Albertson, N. Y.

In February, 1960, Mr. Melvin enrolled in the Graduate School of

the University of Florida. He held a graduate assistantship in the

Department of Psychology until June, 1961. At this time he received a

University of Florida Graduate Fellowship to work toward the degrees

of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy. In February, 1962, he was

awarded the degree of Master of Arts.

Kenneth Boyd Melvin, Jr., is married to the former Bernice June

Oswald. He is a member and former Treasurer of the local chapter of

Psi Chi

This dissertation was prepared under the direction of the

chairman of the candidate's supervisory committee and has been

approved by all members of that committee. It was submitted to the

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate Council,

and was approved as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the

degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

August 10, 1963

Dafi, College of Arts and Sci ces

Dean, Graduate School

Supervisory Committee:


X-^A /-C~~~C~:~

I i ii -1

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