Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Dean, Sanford J.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Punishment (Psychology); Fear; Extintion (Psychology)


Self-punitive behavior refers to a phenomenon in which an animal leaves an apparently safe area and exposes itself to shock before reaching a "safe" goalbox at the end of a runway. The most widely accepted explanation of self-punitive behavior is the Mowrer-Brown conditioned fear hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, the presence of shock in the apparatus during escape training causes a fear response to be classically conditioned to the apparatus cues, and this fear response is elicited whenever the animal is placed in the apparatus, even if shock is not present. This conditioned fear response motivates running during punished extinction trials, and the midsegment shock encountered by the animal during these trials provides further fear conditioning. Fear is said to generalize back to the start area and maintain the motivation for escape despite the absence of shock in the start area. In this study 120 rats received handling and exploration of the runway and hurdle-jump apparatus on Day 1. On Day 2, subjects received escape training followed by either 0, 5, 10, or 20 punished extinction trials. They were then placed in either the startbox or the third runway segment, with access to the rest of the alley blocked, and allowed to escape by jumping over a hurdle into a safebox. The dependent measure was hurdle-jump speed. The amount of conditioned fear elicited by the stimuli in each of the two alley segments after varying numbers of punished extinction trials was thus measured by the learning of a new response to escape fear. The results support the Mowrer-Brown conditioned fear hypothesis. Hurdle-jump speed was significantly faster in the startbox than in the third runway segment, suggesting that fear conditioned to the startbox stimuli during training is maintained during punished extinction trials. Further, the findings support the hypothesis advanced by Perconte, Benson, and Butler in 1981 that the position of a segment relative to shock onset is a critical determinant of the amount of fear which is conditioned to that segment during punished extinction.


Bibliography: pages [43]-45.


vii, 65 pages




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