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Blocking and unblocking in a navigation task

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Journal: Psicológica
ISSN 0211-2159

Volume: 26;
Issue: 002;
Date: 2005;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Rodrigo, Chamizo, McLaren, & Mackintosh (1997) demonstrated the blocking effect in a navigational task using a swimming pool: rats initially trained to use three landmarks (ABC) to find an invisible platform learned less about a fourth landmark (X) added later than did rats trained from the outset with these four landmarks (ABCX). The aim of the experiment reported here was to demonstrate unblocking using a similar procedure as in the previous work. Three groups of rats were initially trained to find an invisible platfom in the presence of three landmarks: ABC for the Blocking and Unblocking groups and LMN for the Control group. Then, all animals were trained to find the platform in the presence of four landmarks, ABCX. In this second training, unlike animals in the Blocking group to which only a new landmark (X) was added in comparison to the first training, the animals in the Unblocking group also had a change in the platform position. In the Control group, both the four landmarks and the platform position were totally new at the beginning of this second training. As in Rodrigo et al. (1997) a blocking effect was found: rats in the Blocking group learned less with respect to the added landmark (X) than did animals in the Control group. However, rats in the Unblocking group learned about the added landmark (X) as well as did animals in the Control group. The results are interpreted as an unblocking effect due to a change in the platform position between the two phases of training, similarly to what is normal in classical conditioning experiments, in which a change in the conditions of reinforcement between the two training phases of a blocking design produce an attenuation or elimination of this effect. These results are explained within an error-correcting connectionist account of spatial navigation (McLaren, 2002).
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