Triggering Avoidance: Dissociable Influences of Aversive Pavlovian Conditioned Stimuli on Human Instrumental Behavior

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Garofalo, S 
Robbins, TW 

The present study investigates human aversive Pavlovian-to-Instrumental Transfer (PIT) and possible influences of outcome devaluation and instrumental overtraining on this effect. PIT measures the extent to which a Pavlovian conditioned stimulus (CS) can increase instrumental responses independently paired with the same (outcome-specific transfer) or a different (general transfer) reinforcer. Two measures of PIT were obtained: the percentage of instrumental responses and the vigor of such responses. Thirty-eight volunteers performed a standard PIT task sequence. Results showed a double dissociation between outcome-specific and general transfer: the first selectively expressed in the amount of responses, the second in the vigor measure solely. Furthermore, outcome-specific transfer was enhanced by overtraining, but not affected by devaluation. General transfer, on the other hand, was affected by neither overtraining, nor devaluation. A positive correlation between general transfer and sensitivity to punishments was found. Findings are discussed in terms of hypothetically different underlying neurobehavioral mechanisms and their relations to habits and goal-directed behavior.

human Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer, reinforcement learning, habits, goal-directed behavior
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Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
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Medical Research Council (G1000183)
Medical Research Council (G0001354)
Wellcome Trust (104631/Z/14/Z)
Work was completed at the Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge (UK), supported by a joint award from the MRC and Wellcome Trust (G00001354) and a Trust Senior Investigator Award (104631/Z/14/Z) awarded to TWR and a fellowship from the University of Bologna to SG.