Summation And Retardation Testing Essay

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Their ability to eliminate alternative explanations has made summation and retardation tests the most widely accepted techniques used to demonstrate empirical evidence for inhibitory conditioning. Numerous researchers have used the two-test strategy to demonstrate inhibitory conditioning on an extensive range of subjects including invertebrates, animals and humans. However, many reviews have argued that summation and retardation tests lack control over procedures, allowing alternative interpretations. Consequently, empirical evidence from the techniques for inhibitory conditioning is rare. Nevertheless, strong emphasis remains that with achievement of certain criteria, the two tests can together rule out alternative interpretations thus providing …show more content…
The summation test revolves around two assumptions: (1) an inhibitory conditioned stimulus and an excitatory conditioned stimulus produce opposite responses, and (2), demonstrating a conditioned inhibitor is unachievable unless there is a response to inhibit (Rescorla, 1969).

Summation tests acquire the usage of two groups of subjects, an experimental group and a control group. Prior to the summation test, the experimental group receive inhibitory conditioning to a stimulus (i.e. A) in contrast to the control group who receive no inhibitory conditioning. Following this, both the experimental and control group receive classical conditioning. The classical conditioning procedure pairs two stimuli, an unconditioned stimulus (a stimulus that produces a response that is innate) and a neutral stimulus that initially evokes no response (i.e. B), in order to produce a conditioned response (Mazur, 2013). Subsequent to classical conditioning, both groups should elicit a response to the presentation of stimulus B by itself. This is due to a formed association between stimulus B and the unconditioned stimulus. During the summation test, stimulus A (presumably a conditioned inhibitor) and stimulus B (presumably a conditioned excitor) are simultaneously presented. By pairing a conditioned excitor with a conditioned inhibitor, the
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Due to the deficit in attention, it takes subjects longer to learn the stimulus. As a result, the ability of the retardation test to demonstrate empirical evidence for inhibitory conditioning is questionable. To overcome this issue, the summation test is required. The attentional explanation relies on the assumption that within the summation procedure, instead of inhibiting a response as a result of a negative correlation with an outcome, the conditioned inhibitor simply distracts subjects’ attention away from the conditioned excitor (Urcelay et al., 2008). Consequently, subjects fail to evoke a conditioned response. However, this interpretation relies on the belief that a single treatment can both increase and decrease attention to a stimulus. Cole et al. (1997) argued this was impossible hence Rescorla’s (1969) proposition that in order to provide empirical evidence for inhibitory conditioning, passage of both summation and retardation tests is

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