The erasure of reinstated fear

Robert A. Rescorla, Christopher L. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Three experiments investigated the reinstatement of fear to a previously conditioned and extinguished CS as a result of separate presentation of the original US. That reinstatement was found to be sharply attenuated by nonreinforcement of a second fear elicitor between presentations of the US and testing of the CS. This "erasure" of reinstatement depended upon the fear-eliciting power of the intervening stimulus and, under some circumstances, was essentially complete. Moreover, erasure reduced not only the response to the CS but also the extinction it underwent as a result of subsequent nonreinforcement. It is argued that neither the conditioning of background stimuli nor stimulus generalization among explicit CSs provides an adequate account of these reinstatement and erasure results. Rather, they are interpreted in terms of the construction and destruction of a nonassociative representation of the US during conditioning, extinction, reinstatement, and erasure. In that context, some inferences can be made about the rules governing these nonassociative changes and the ways in which they interact with modifications in associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-394
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Learning & Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1977
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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