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Copyright 1982 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.


Journal of Experimental Psychology:

Animal Behavior Processes
1982, Vol. 8, No. 2, 187-203

Bridging Temporal Gaps Between CS and US in Autoshaping:

Insertion of Other Stimuli Before,
During, and After CS
Peter S. Kaplan and Eliot Hearst
Indiana University
In four experiments pigeons were exposed to key-light illuminations separated
from food delivery by 12-60 sec. Approach to the key light did not develop on
conventional trace-conditioning arrangements but occurred consistently whenever some auditory or visual stimulus (a) filled the CS-US gap (serial conditioning) or (b) was always present except during the gap. Various comparison
groups showed that this enhancement of conditioning cannot be mainly attributed
to similarity between the CS and the added stimulus, or to spread of specific
responses evoked by that stimulus, or to potentiation of CS's neural aftereffects
by the extra stimulus. However, modifications of condition b in the final experiment revealed that CS approach was strong only when the stimulus present
during the intertrial interval remained on until the termination of CS; if the
stimulus ended at CS onset, conditioning did not occur. Although discriminability
of CS-US gaps from intertrial periods seems necessary for conditioning to occur
in the absence of close CS-US contiguity, the outcome of the final experiment
indicates that such discriminability is not sufficient for conditioning. The results
are primarily interpreted in terms of (a) possible second-order conditioning effects and (b) changes in the associative strength of the "local context" existing
when CS appears, which may lead to superconditioning of CS.

Trace conditioning procedures, which involve CS presentation followed by a stimulus-free period before US delivery, are less
likely to produce strong acquisition of conditioned responses to CS than if the gap between CS offset and US onset is filled by a
different external stimulus (serial conditioning procedures) or by a continuation of the
original stimulus (delay conditioning procedures). Facilitative effects produced by
filling the CS-US gap have been reported,
for example, by Bolles, Collier, Bouton, and
Marlin (1978), Kamin (1965), Kehoe, Gibbs,
This research was supported by National Institute of
Mental Health Grant MH-19300. Portions of the data
were presented at the meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Hartford, Connecticut, April 1980,
at the meeting of the Psychonomic Society, St. Louis,
Missouri, November 1980, and at the Harvard Symposium on Quantitative Analyses of Behavior, Cambridge, Massachusetts, June 1981, We thank Sarah
Bottjer, Roberta Ewing, Dexter Gormley, Robert Levenson, Gary Lucas, Eileen Riffe, and William T. Wolff
for valuable advice and assistance.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Eliot Hearst,
Department of Psychology, Indiana University, Blooming ton, Indiana 47405.

Garcia, and Gormezano (1979), Newlin and

LoLordo (1976), Pearce, Nicholas, and
Dickinson (1981), and Sears, Baker, and
Frey (1979). Most previous attempts to account for the ineffectiveness of trace conditioning have stressed the lack of contiguity
between the US and either the CS itself or
some persisting neural-memorial aftereffect
of the CS; a frequent statement is that for
a particular CS and US, trace conditioning
may be impossible beyond some maximum
gap between CS offset and US. Therefore,
explanations of successful conditioning with
filled CS-US gaps have stressed nonassociative and associative mechanisms that somehow compensate for the absence of contiguity between CS and US or that involve
different contiguous relations (e.g., between
CS and the gap-filler stimulus). Along these
lines, such processes as stimulus generalization, temporal spread of responses acquired
during the gap filler, sensory-sensory conditioning, higher-order conditioning, and
secondary reinforcement have been considered candidates for strong involvement in
effective gap-bridging arrangements.




Although we discovered later that Mowrer

and Lamoreaux's (1951) account cannot
handle the detailed results of our studies, the
research reported here was initially guided
by an interpretation of trace conditioning
failures that was offered by them. They
pointed out that on trace procedures the
background or situational cues that prevail
during the gap between CS and US are identical to the stimulus conditions in force
throughout most segments of the experimental sessions (the intertrial intervals, ITIs).
This feature of the trace arrangement should
produce considerable generalization between
these two kinds of unfilled intervals and
thereby hinder conditioning to the CS. In
other words, when the trace CS is off, subjects cannot easily discriminate whether they
are currently in an ITI or in a gap between
CS and US. An obvious way to test Mowrer
and Lamoreaux's account would be to compare standard trace conditioning with acquisition to the same CS when the gaps between CS and US are clearly differentiated
from the intervals between trials. This goal
can be accomplished by inserting some extra
stimulus either in the gapas has been successful in several prior studies of serial conditioning or in the ITI, which to our
knowledge was investigated here for the first
time (but cf. Bolles et al., 1978).
The present series of experiments thus
examined approach and contact behavior
directed toward localized visual CSs (autoshaping or sign tracking; see Hearst & Jenkins, 1974) on standard trace conditioning
procedures, in comparison with the behavior
directed toward the same CS when certain
auditory or visual stimuli were presented
before, during, or after the CS. Several CSUS gaps were studied, ranging from 12 sec
to 1 min, as well as the degree of overlap
between the CS and the extra stimuli. The
general findings are discussed in the light of
current data and theories pertaining to compound conditioning, overshadowing and
blocking, the role of contextual cues, simultaneous versus successive associations, and
second-order conditioning.
Experiment 1
Mowrer and Lamoreaux's (1951) hypothesis predicts that trace conditioning should

improve as the stimulus conditions in the

CS-US gap and the ITI are made more discriminable from each other. An autoshaping
experiment performed, by Newlin and
LoLordo (1976, Experiment 1) provides support for this prediction. Each of the sessions
in their study can be described as consisting
of a repeating cycle of events, composed of
four successive segments: the ITI, the CS,
the period between CS offset and US onset,
and a period of grain delivery. One group
of pigeons was presented with a key light
that was white throughout the ITI, green
during the 4-sec CS period, and red during
the 4-sec CS-US gap (serial conditioning).
A second group was also presented with a
key light that was white throughout the ITI
and green during the CS period, but the light
turned white again during the CS-US gap
(trace conditioning). Newlin and LoLordo
found that birds in the serial "group, which
received ITIs that were clearly discriminable
from CS-US gaps (white vs. red), reached
an autoshaping acquisition criterion much
faster than birds in the trace conditioning
In our first experiment we sought to replicate and extend Newlin and LoLordo's results and to examine further the applicability
of Mowrer and Lamoreaux's hypothesis
within the autoshaping paradigm. Five
groups of pigeons were all presented with a
12-sec green key light followed after a 12sec period by brief access to grain. For one
group, both the ITI and the period between
CS1 and US were left unfilled (i.e., no explicit stimulus was presented: a conventional
trace conditioning procedure). For the qther
four groups, the ITI was likewise left unfilled, but a different kind of auditory or visual filler (white key light, red house light,
clicker, or complete blackout of the chamber) was inserted during the gap between CS
and US. These filler stimuli enabled us not
only to differentiate the CS-US gap from
the ITI in the four groups but also to assess
For purposes of consistency and clarity we use the
term "CS" to refer to the stimulus separated from the
US by a time gap, even though it is of course possible
to conceive of the stimuli that fill this gap or the ITI
as CSs, too. Therefore, in all the present experiments
the green key light served as the CS; stimuli inserted
in the CS-US gap are called "gap fillers," and stimuli,
inserted in the ITI are called "ITI fillers."


possible contributions of (a) stimulus generalization between CS and gap filler and
(b) any response transfer dependent on the
behaviors evoked by the specific gap fillers
themselves (i.e., some of the fillers would
probably not evoke pecking, especially at the
key). As in the Newlin and LoLordo study,
key pecks were recorded; however, our major
dependent measure involved the index of
approach to the CS developed by Wasserman, Franklin, and Hearst (1974), which
has generally proved more sensitive and reliable than key-peck measures.
Subjects. The subjects were 40 experimentally naive
female White Carneaux pigeons, 5-7 yr old, maintained
at 75% of their free-feeding weights. All birds were individually housed, with water freely available.
Apparatus. Four standard Lehigh Valley Electronics three-key chambers were employed, but the middle
key was covered with tape and never used. The left and
right keys were dark except during trials, at which times
one or the other key was illuminated by a miniprojector
mounted behind it. Mixed grain was periodically accessible for 3 sec in an aperture midway between the
keys and 11 cm above the floor of the chamber. A translucent Plexiglas panel was installed 5 cm below the entire regular ceiling; two 2.8-W house lights were embedded in the regular ceiling near the center of the chamber.
Presentation of either house light through the translucent panel was designed to decrease the localizability
of these stimuli. Different house-light colors (red and
white) were produced by use of a red plastic cover over
one bulb and a clear plastic cover over the other bulb;
only one bulb was ever illuminated at a given time. The
intensities of the red and white house lights were 7.5 Ix
and 29,1 Ix, respectively, measured from the chamber
floor with a Photovolt Corporation (Model 210) photometer. A loudspeaker was mounted behind the front
panel and centered between and slightly above the two
keys. A 25-pps, 83-dB (SPL) clicking sound could be
delivered through this speaker, which was located approximately 12 cm above another speaker that delivered

a constant 79-dB (SPL) white noise to the chamber.

The latter stimulation, along with the continuous sound
of the chamber's ventilating system, served to mask extraneous noises.
The location of a bird in the chamber (i.e., left or
right side) was monitored by a microswitch beneath the
teeter-totter floor (see Wasserman et al., 1974). The
number of key pecks during CS and ITI periods and the
amount of time spent on the same side (left or right)
of the chamber as the illuminated key were recorded
by conventional electromechanical relay circuitry located in the control room adjacent to the experimental
cubicle. During selected sessions the subjects were observed directly by the experimenter or by videotape
monitoring and recording.
Procedure. Eight pigeons were randomly assigned
to each of five groups. During magazine training, a pigeon was placed in its experimental chamber with the
white house light on and the hopper raised and filled
with grain. After the bird had eaten for about 20 sec,
the hopper was lowered. Subsequent grain presentations
occurred irregularly for brief periods (3-5 sec). Twenty
grain presentations were given to each subject on 2 successive days.
On the third day of the experiment, conditioning began. All birds in the experiment received presentations
of a 12-sec green key light followed after a 12-see interval by 3-sec access to grain. The type of stimulus
condition in effect during the 12-sec period between
green key light offset and grain delivery varied across
the five groups, whereas ITI conditions were the same
for all groups (a white house light was on and both keys
were dark). Table 1 displays the sequence of stimulus
events occurring on each trial for the different groups.
In this experiment, of course, the only difference in
group treatments occurred during the gap between CS
offset and grain delivery. Birds in different groups were
presented with either a white key light (Gap-Filled-Keylight), a change in the color of the house light from
white to red (Gap-Filled-Red-Houselight), a complete
blackout of the chamber (Gap-Filled-Blackout), a clicking noise (Gap-Filled-Clicker), or the same stimulus
conditions as were present during the ITI (Gap-Unfilled).
Key-light presentations occurred on either the left or
the right side of the chamber. The exact order of left
versus right key illuminations varied irregularly from
trial to trial, with the constraints that (a) the green key

Table 1
Sequence of Events in Each Repeating Cycle of a Session for Different
Groups in Experiment I
Group label

(VT 60 sec)

Red Houselight





green key

Note. ITI = intertrial interval; VT = variable time.


(12 sec)



Gap (12 sec)

(3 sec)

white key
red house light














Figure 1. Mean approach-withdrawal ratios to CS

across sessions for birds in each of the five groups of
Experiment 1. (KL = key light; HL = house light;
BO = blackout; CL = clicker; UNF = unfilled.)
light could not appear on the same side for more than
three consecutive trials and (b) an equal number of left
and right key illuminations occurred daily. Birds in the
Gap-Filled-Keylight groups (green key light followed
by white key light and then grain) experienced both
colored lights on the same side of the chamber during
a given trial.
The total amount of time spent by a bird on the same
side of the chamber as the illuminated green key light
(and white key light for the Gap-Filled-Keylight group)
was recorded daily, and this sum was divided by the
total amount of time that the key light was on to yield
a performance measure called the approach-withdrawal
ratio. A ratio near 1.00 evidences strong approach behavior toward the lit key, whereas a ratio near .00 indicates strong withdrawal from it; birds typically exhibit
withdrawal behavior in the presence of conditioned inhibitory stimuli (e.g., Wasserman et al., 1974). A ratio
near .50 indicates that the bird's position in the chamber
is not systematically controlled by the location of the
lit key.
A variable time (VT) 60-sec ITI, with a range of 4080 sec, was in force throughout the experiment for birds
in all groups. Each of the 24 training sessions, scheduled
7 days per week, included 34 trials. All stimulus events
and reinforcers occurred independently of the animal's

Figure 1 shows that birds in the Gap-Unfilled (conventional trace conditioning) group
did not acquire any tendency to approach
the CS; if anything, they displayed a slight
tendency to withdraw from CS as training
progressed. In clear contrast, birds in all four
gap-filled groups rapidly attained high levels
of approach to the CS.

A mixed two-factor analysis of variance

was performed on the data of Figure 1. The
main effect of groups was highly significant,
F(4, 35) = 26.45, p < .001, as was the main
effect of days and the Days X Groups interaction, F(23, 805) = 22.09 and F(92,
805) = 3.44, respectively, p < .001 in both
cases. Subsequent Newman-Keuls tests carried out on the data collapsed across all 24
sessions revealed that birds in each of the
gap-filled groups exhibited stronger approach to CS than did birds in the gap-unfilled condition (p < .01 in each case). In
addition, birds in the Gap-Filled-Keylight
group displayed significantly stronger approach to CS than did birds in the GapFilled-Clicker group (p < .01). No other individual comparisons were statistically significant.
The mean numbers of CS key pecks per
session over the 24 training days were 75.0,
74.1, 61.1, and 106.0 for the Gap-Filled
Keylight, Red-Houselight, Blackout, and
Clicker groups, respectively, all of which
differed significantly from the Gap-Unfilled
group, in which only two subjects made any
pecks to the CS during training (a total of
19 and 7 pecks over 24 sessions). However,
the amount of pecking in the gap-filled
groups was highly variable, and their mean
levels did not differ significantly from one
A further result seems worthy of mention.
Approach behavior and key pecking were
examined in the Gap-Filled-Keylight group
with respect to the green key light (CS) versus the white key light (gap filler). Mean
approach-withdrawal ratios toward the lit
key over all sessions of training were .86
during the CS and .94 during the gap filler;
the latter value was greater than the former
for every one of the eight birds. Similarly,
the mean number of key pecks per session
was 75.0 during the CS and 143.6 during
the gap filler, with six of the eight subjects
showing more pecking during the gap filler
than during CS.
Although birds in the other three gapfilled groups rarely pecked the (dark) key
during the CS-US gap, videotapes and periodic visual observation of all subjects in
those groups over the final 10 days of training typically revealed consistent behaviors


directed at various parts of the front panel

during the gap (of course, since subjects in
the Gap-Filled-Blackout group were not visible at that time, we could not monitor their
behavior). During the gap birds in the GapFilled-Red-Houselight group engaged primarily in "goal-tracking" behavior (see
Boakes, 1977)movements and pecks directed at the area of the grain aperture
whereas some birds in the Gap-Filled-Clicker
group also pecked at the magazine, others
at the front wall, and still others generally
bobbed their heads in a stereotyped manner.
All these behaviors occurred much less frequently, if at all, during ITIs. Birds in the
Gap-Unfilled group did not peck at the dark
keys during the gap, nor were they observed
to engage in any off-key pecking or goal
tracking. Instead, these birds typically shuttled back and forth in front of the stimulus
panel throughout the session. Pecking of any
kind during the ITI was very infrequent for
all 40 birds in the experiment.
Regardless of the nature of the discrete
auditory or visual stimulus that filled the 12sec gap between CS offset and US onset,
clear-cut approach and pecking behavior
were directed toward CS in all groups that
received such a filler stimulus. When no filler
was presented during the gap (conventional
trace conditioning), neither approach nor
pecking behavior toward CS developed. Because (a) the strongest CS approach occurred when the CS-US gap was filled by
a stimulus (lit key) that was similar to the
CS and that itself evoked behavior very
much like the responses directed at CS and
(b) the weakest approach resulted when the
gap filler came from a different sensory modality (a clicker) and evoked a variety of
behaviors besides pecking, there is apparently some contribution of stimulus generalization effects and/or response transfer to
the filled versus unfilled differences we obtained. However, the fact that strong CSdirected behavior emerged in all the gapfilled groups irrespective of the exact kind
of gap filler or the behaviors emitted during
the gap strongly suggests that such generalization and transfer effects cannot account


for the major finding of our experimentthe

specific facilitation of CS responding produced by insertion of other stimuli in the
CS-US gap.
Kehoe et al, (1979) and Pearce et al.
(1981) also dismissed simple stimulus generalization as an adequate explanation for
the superiority of serial over trace conditioning obtained in their studies. Incidentally, along lines pertinent to the
Mowrer-Lamoreaux hypothesis, any differences between the effects of the different
gap fillers in our experiment might alternatively be analyzed in terms of the degree
to which each kind of filler stimulus successfully differentiated the CS-US interval
from the ITI (rather than in terms of generalization between filler and CS). Unfortunately, this alternative is hard for us to
evaluate rigorously, because we possess no
independent measure of the discriminability
of each type of filler from the ITI conditions.
Another relevant point derives from recent
experiments indicating that similarity of CSi
and CS2 facilitates Pavlovian second-order
conditioning (see Rescorla & Furrow, 1977).
This type of effect implies that any transfer
of associative strength from gap filler to CS
may have been enhanced or promoted by the
degree of physical similarity between these
two stimuli.
A few birds in the Gap-Unfilled group
developed withdrawal responses to the trace
CS. This outcome is consistent with recent
evidence suggesting conditioned inhibition
of the rabbit's nictitating membrane response by a trace CS (Hinson & Siegel,
1980). Our result is an indication that trace
CSs may acquire mild conditioned inhibitory
properties under certain conditions. However, of the approximately 40 pigeons that
we have trained on procedures like the gapunfilled arrangement of Experiment 1, fewer
than 25% exhibited any signs of withdrawal
behavior (see also Experiments 3 and 4 and
Figures 3 and 4 of the present report, which
provide no evidence of conditioned inhibition
to a trace CS, even though the CS-US gap
was considerably longer in Experiment 3
than in this experiment). Therefore, we do
not further discuss the possibility of inhibitory conditioning to the trace CS, although
certain temporal values of the ITI, CS, and



gap may produce such an effect in an autoshaping situation.

As would be expected, all the gap fillers
in the present experiment seemed themselves
to acquire conditioned excitatory value. We
pointed out that particular responses (sign
tracking, goal tracking, head bobbing, etc.)
appeared consistently during the filler stimuli and not during ITIs. Such an outcome
supports the possibility that second-order
conditioning occurred, with the filler as the
first-order stimulus and the CS as the second-order stimulus; in other words, the CS
may have acquired its excitatory powers
wholly or partially through contiguity with
the onset of the gap filler, rather than
through actual pairings with the US. Second-order conditioning to a key light CS has
been demonstrated with key lights, house
lights, and auditory stimuli (but not blackouts) as first-order stimuli (see Rashotte,
1981, for a review).
The findings of Experiment 1 are in general agreement with Newlin and LoLordo's
(1976) trace versus serial conditioning results for autoshaping and with predictions
from Mowrer and Lamoreaux's (1951) hypothesis concerning the improvement of conditioning that should result if the ITI and
CS-US gap are clearly discriminable.
Among other alternatives to the MowrerLamoreaux account, second-order conditioning remains a potential mechanism by
which this facilitation operates.
Experiment 2
The crucial implication of Mowrer and
Lamoreaux's (1951) analysis of trace conditioning concerns the discriminability of
stimulus conditions prevailing during the
CS-US gap in comparison with the conditions prevailing during the ITI. It should not
matter whether the distinctive filler is presented during the gap or during the ITI,
Consequently, in this experiment different
groups of pigeons were treated as in Experiment 1, but with an important exception.
For two groups an auditory or visual stimulus was presented only during the CS-US
gap (a systematic replication of Experiment
1), whereas for two other groups the auditory or visual stimulus was presented except
during the gap. Thus on the latter procedure,

a filler stimulus was presented throughout

the ITI and did not terminate until CS offset. Such an arrangement represents an interesting hybrid between conventional serial
and trace procedures, because the conditions
in effect during the CS-US gap are identical
to those in force during standard trace procedures (i.e., no external stimulus is presented) but the stimulus conditions during
the ITI and CS-US gap are not identical,
as is also true of standard serial procedures.
Will conditioning occur to a CS followed by
US after a long unfilled period, provided that
the ITI contains a distinctive stimulus?
Subjects. Twenty-eight female White Carneaux pigeons served as subjects, All housing, deprivation, and
maintenance conditions were the same as in Experiment 1.
Apparatus. Slight modifications were made to the
chambers used in Experiment 1. A 2.8-W bulb covered
by a red plastic cap was embedded in the center of the
front panel above the translucent Plexiglas ceiling. A
Plexiglas "diffuser," resting on top of the translucent
ceiling, was placed beneath the bulb. The red light created by illuminating the bulb appeared to the experimenters as a patch of red light at the front center of
the Plexiglas ceiling. This "signal light" was used as the
visual filler stimulus in Experiment 2 to roughly equate
the auditory and visual fillers in terms of magnitude of
change from background conditions: The auditory filler,
presentation of a 25-pps clicker, was the same as in
Experiment 1, and consequently both kinds of fillers
represent the addition of an external stimulus to general
situational cues, whereas in Experiment 1 the visual
filler in the Keylight and Red-Houselight groups involved a change from one color to another and in the
Blackout group a removal of all visual cues.
Procedure. Pigeons were randomly assigned to four
groups of seven subjects. Magazine .training proceeded
as in the previous experiment. During the training phase,
all birds received 12-sec presentations of a green key
light followed after 12 sec by 3-sec access to grain, as
in Experiment 1. A summary of the four treatments is
supplied in Table 2. In a systematic replication of Experiment 1, two groups were presented with either the
red signal light or the clicker during qnly the CS-US
gap (Gap-Filled-Signal-Light and Gap-Filled-Clicker
groups). For the remaining two groups, the signal light
or clicker was always present except during the CS-US
gap (ITI-Filled-Signal-Light and ITI-Filled-Clicker
groups). All other details of training were the same as
those in Experiment 1.

One bird in the ITI-Filled-Signal-Light
group had to be dropped from the experiment after three conditioning sessions for
failure to eat reliably. Mean CS approach-



Table 2
Sequence of Events in Each Repeating Cycle of a Session for Different
Groups in Experiment 2
Group label

(VT 60 sec)


(12 sec)

(12 sec)

(3 sec)

Signal Light


green key
green key

signal light


Signal Light

signal light

green key"
green key'



Note. ITI = intertrial interval; VT = variable time.

" All ITI fillers overlapped in time and coterminated with the CS. They came on again during the US.

withdrawal ratios for the remaining pigeons

in each group of Experiment 2 are displayed
in the acquisition curves of Figure 2. Birds
in all groups developed a strong tendency to
approach the CS, although asymptQtie performance levels were generally lower than
those attained by the groups in Experiment 1.
A mixed two-factor analysis of variance
carried out on these data indicated that the
main effect of groups was insignificant,
F(3, 23) = .59, whereas the main effect of
days and the Days X Groups interaction
were significant, F(23, 529) = 11.87 and
F(69, 529) =1.96, respectively, p< .001 for
both. Thus, in terms of overall approachwithdrawal ratios, it did not matter very
much whether the signal light or the clicker
was used as a filler* or whether the filler was
inserted only during the CS-US gap or except during the gap. The conditioning levels
displayed by all four groups were substantially above the level shown by the conventional trace conditioning group in Experiment 1.
The mean numbers of CS key pecks per
session over the 24 training days were 6,3,
20.1, 6.5, and 8.6 for the Gap-Filled-SignalLight, Gap-Filled-Clicker, ITI-Filled-Signal-Light, and ITI-Filled-Cljcker groups,
respectively. However, the amount of key
pecking in these groups was highly variable,
and mean levels did not differ significantly
from each other.
Despite the fact that little pecking of the
dark keys" was recorded during the CS-US
gap for any of the birds in the experiment,
periodic observations of all birds over the

last 10 days of training revealed regular behaviors during the gap; some subjects in each
group pecked in the area of the grain aperture, keys, or other places on the front
panel, whereas some birds exhibited stereotyped head-bobbing responses. The dominant behavior in a given bird seemed to be
fairly idiosyncratic, although several birds
in the Gap-Filled-Signal-Light group directed their pecks toward the signal light
itself. Pecking directed at the dark keys, or
any other forms of consistent behavior besides general shuttling or circling, was observed very infrequently during ITIs.
In this experiment consistent approach
behavior emerged during a CS separated
from US by 12 sec, in strong contrast to the








Figure 2. Mean approach-withdrawal ratios to CS

across sessions for birds in each of the four groups
of -Experiment 2. (SL =? signal light; CL = clicker;
ITI = intertrial interval.)



lack of conditioning that occurred to such

a CS when the ITI and CS-US gap were
both unfilled in the standard trace conditioning group of Experiment 1. As in the
prior experiment, filling only the CS-US gap
with an auditory or visual stimulus removed
the conditioning deficit, but Experiment 2
went further by demonstrating that a facilitation of conditioning would also occur if
the same auditory or visual stimulus filled
all segments of the experimental session except for the CS-US gap. The findings are
consistent with Mowrer and Lamoreaux's
(1951) suggestion that increases in the discriminability of the CS-US gap from the
ITI will improve conditioning to a CS separated by several seconds or more from
the US.
Coupled with the findings of Experiment
1, our results argue convincingly against a
major role for stimulus generalization from
gap filler to CS in accounting for the facilitative effects obtained; stimulus conditions
in the gap for subjects in the two ITI-filled
conditions of Experiment 2 (i.e., no discrete
external stimulus in the gap) were identical
to those in force on the standard trace conditioning procedure of Experiment 1, which
had yielded no evidence of conditioned approach to CS. Accounts based primarily on
simple spread or transfer to CS of anticipatory responses developing during the gap
seem implausible, too, since a variety of different responses were emitted during the gap
by individual subjects in the separate groups,
and yet subjects in all groups exhibited approach and pecking to CS.
However, the differential behaviors (offkey pecking, goal tracking, head bobbing,
etc.) observed during the CS-US gap, as
compared with the fairly nonspecific behaviors occurring during ITIs, clearly indicated
that stimulus conditions during the gap became excitatory in Experiment 2 regardless
of whether they involved presence or absence
of some auditory or visual stimulus. Because
the CS immediately preceded this stimulus
condition, the possibility of an interpretation
based on second-order conditioning remains
viable. Although, to our knowledge, secondorder conditioning has never been demonstrated with the absence of some explicit
stimulus as the first-order excitor, we have

every reason to believe that attempts at such

a demonstration would succeed. Obviously,
for "absence" to serve as an effective gap
stimulus it must be differentiated or marked
off from other segments of the experimental
session, because otherwise simple trace conditioning should generally be attainable, too.
Thus the absence of an explicit stimulus during a relatively long CS-US gap does not
preclude conditioning to that CS. Incidentally, both Kamin (1965) and Pavlov (1927,
p. 39) obtained successful first-order conditioning to a CS that involved the temporary cessation or disappearance of a continuous auditory stimulus (see also Konorski,
1967, p. 69), although Kamin concluded (p.
142) that "CS termination appears to produce a much shorter-lived trace than does
CS onset."
Experiment 3
In our first two experiments, conditioning
to a CS separated by 12 sec from US was
obtained when either the CS-US gap or all
other segments of training sessions were
marked or filled by some distinctive external
stimulus. Before attempting a further analysis of these effects, we wanted to determine
whether strong conditioning would likewise
develop over appreciably longer intervals
than 12 sec, provided that an external stimulus was continuously present except during
the CS-US gap. Pigeons were trained as
before with a 12-sec green key light as the
CS, but US followed after either a 30-sec
(two groups) or a 60-sec (two groups) unfilled interval. Half of the birds at each gap
duration were exposed to a conventional
trace conditioning procedure (no fillers),
whereas the remaining birds experienced an
auditory stimulus at all times except during
the gap (like the ITI-filled groups in Experiment 2).
Subjects. Thirty-two female White Carneaux pigeons served. All general maintenance conditions were
identical to those for Experiments 1 and 2.
Apparatus. The conditioning chambers and apparatus details were the same as those in the prior experiments. The auditory filler stimulus was different, however. It consisted of a 1000-Hz, 88-dB (SPL) tone,
presented from the same speaker as the clicking noise
in the earlier work.



Procedure. After random assignment into four
groups of eight subjects, birds were magazine trained
as in Experiments 1 and 2, During subsequent conditioning, two separate groups were presented with a 12sec green key light followed by US after a 30-sec unfilled
interval. For one of these groups, the tone filler was on
continuously except during the 30-sec gap (ITI-Filled30 group). For the other group, no tone was ever presented (ITI-Unfilled-30 group, a standard trace procedure). The ITI averaged 2.5 min (range: 100-200 sec)
for both groups. Birds in the remaining two groups were
presented with an identical 12-sec green key light followed by US after a 60-sec unfilled interval. One of
these groups was presented with a continuous tone that
terminated at CS offset (ITI-Filled-60 group), whereas
the other group never experienced the tone (ITI-Unfllled-60 group, a standard trace procedure). The ITI
for these two groups averaged 5 min (range: 200-40Q
sec). Our reason for changing the absolute ITI duration
from a mean of 60 sec in Experiments 1 and 2 to 150
sec or 300 sec in this experiment was to hold constant
the ratio of gap duration to ITI duration (1:5)likely
to be important on the basis of results from other work
on temporal parameters influencing acquisition and performance (see, for example, Gibbon & Balsam, 1981).
All birds received 34 trials during each of the 24 daily
conditioning sessions.

Figure 3 displays training data for birds
in the 30-sec-gap groups and 60-sec-gap
groups. At both gap durations, birds receiving the tone filler at all times except between
CS offset and US onset exhibited strong CS
approach behavior, whereas birds trained on
conventional trace conditioning procedures
showed virtually no conditioning to CS. The
levels of approach behavior achieved in the
two tone-filled groups were at least as high
as that obtained with an auditory filler and
a much shorter CS-US gap (12 sec) in Experiment 2.
Separate mixed two-factor analyses of
variance were carried out on approach-withdrawal ratios at the two gap durations. For
the 30-sec-gap groups, the main effect of
filled ITI versus unfilled ITI was highly significant, F(l, 14) = 21.75, p < .001, just as
was the effect for the 60-sec-gap groups,
F(l, 14) = 13.21, p < .005. In both analyses
the main effect of days and the Days X
Groups interaction were also significant, attaining p values of at least .012.
The mean numbers of CS key pecks per
session over the 24 training days were 23.5
and 6.1 (the latter "high" value was attributable largely to one bird) in the 30-sec-

30-MC jop








60-sec gap





Figure 3. Mean approach-withdrawal ratios to CS

across sessions for birds in the 30-sec-gap and 60-secgap conditions of Experiment 3. (ITI = intertrial interval.)

Filled and 30-sec-Unfilled groups, respectively, and 3.3 and 0.1 in the 60-sec Filled
and Unfilled groups, respectively. Differences in CS key pecking between filled and
unfilled conditions were significant in the 60sec groups, *(14) = 2.93, p < .02, but failed
to achieve an acceptable level of significance
in the 30-sec groups, f(14) = 1.61. Counter
records for birds in all four groups over the
last 10 days of training revealed little or no
pecking at the dark keys during the CS-US
gap or the ITI. The incidence of off-key
pecking, goal tracking, and other consistent
behaviors during the CS-US gap by birds
in the ITI-filled conditions over the last 10
sessions of training was extremely low, in
contrast to the regular behaviors of this kind
observed asymptotically with the shorter, 12sec gap used in Experiments 1 and 2.



When all segments of experimental sessions except the CS-US gap were filled by
a tone, clear-cut excitatory conditioning to



CS occurred even though the unfilled gaps

were as long as 1 min in duration. This finding dramatizes the power of the procedures
used in the present series of experiments for
enabling pigeons to bridge long temporal
gaps. Typically, acquisition of CS-directed
behavior is very weak when unfilled CS-US
gaps of more than approximately 5-8 sec are
employed (e.g., Newlin & LoLordo, 1976;
Wasserman, Deich, Hunter, & Nagamatsu,
1977; but cf. Lucas, Deich, & Wasserman,
1981). Part of our success may be due to the
sensitive approach-withdrawal measure used.
Experiment 4
Compared with standard trace conditioning, the manipulations performed in Experiments 1-3 were designed to increase the
discriminability of stimulus conditions present during the CS-US gap from those present during the ITI. As a result of such procedures, the unfilled temporal gap across
which reliable autoshaping could be obtained was extended further than would be
expected on the basis of most prior research.
However, in Experiments 2 and 3, when a
distinctive stimulus was presented during all
segments of the experimental session except
the CS-US gap, the stimulus not only filled
the entire ITI but also overlapped the CS
and terminated simultaneously with it. The
observed facilitation of acquisition to CS,
compared with standard trace conditioning,
could be attributed to (a) differentiation of
stimulus conditions present during the CSUS gap from conditions during the ITI,
along the lines of Mowrer and Lamoreaux's
(1951) analysis; (b) some potentiation of the
neural trace of the CS produced by the simultaneous occurrence and/or termination
of key light and filler stimulus; (c) the presentation of the CS in a presumably inhibitory (or minimally excitatory) local context
or background, on the assumption that the
long-duration ITI filler rapidly becomes a
signal for nonreinforcement. Conversely, in
standard trace conditioning, the CS occurs
in the presence of excitatory general background stimulation, or (d) second-order conditioning, with filler absence the first-order
exciter and the green key light the secondorder stimulus, as suggested above.

Our next experiment was designed to help

evaluate the relative power and generality
of these various kinds of explanations. We
returned to the CS-US and ITI durations
used in Experiment 2; four groups of pigeons
were trained with a 12-sec green key light
followed after an unfilled 12-sec gap by 3
sec of grain. For three of these groups, a tone
filled the entire ITI and terminated (a) when
the key light came on (No Overlap), (b)
when the key light had been on for 6 sec
(Partial Overlap), or (c) when the key light
went off (Complete Overlap, as in Experiments 2 and 3). If the crucial feature producing successful conditioning over long unfilled CS-US gaps in Experiments 2 and 3
was simply differentiation of gap and ITI
conditions, then the three groups in the present experiment should perform more or less
similarly. If the crucial feature was occurrence of the key light in a nonexcitatory or
inhibitory local context, then conditioning
should be better to the degree that the ITI
filler and keylight overlapped. A second-order conditioning account would also seem to
anticipate the latter general result, since in
the Complete Overlap group the key light
preceded and predicted filler offset whereas
in the No Overlap group the illumination of
the key did not predict but was coincident
with filler offset.
The fourth group of subjects was trained
on a trace-compound procedure in which 12sec illuminations of the key light were compounded with 12-sec occurrences of the tone;
there was no external stimulus presented in
either the ITI or the gap, and the US was
delivered 12 sec after the offset of the compound CS. If the mere addition of an auditory stimulus somehow potentiates the
neural trace of^the CS so as to facilitate the
bridging of a subsequent unfilled CS-US
gap (in Experiments 2 and 3 the key light
CS was always accompanied by the auditory
ITI filler and terminated simultaneously
with it), then birds in the Trace Compound
group should display good autoshaping to
the key light CS, too.
Subjects. Thirty-two female White darneaux pigeons, maintained as in the foregoing experiments,


Apparatus. ' The apparatus was the same as that in
Experiment 3.
Procedure. After random assignment to four groups
of eight subjects, each pigeon was trained to eat from
the grain hopper as in Experiments 1-3. On the day
after completion of magazine training, acquisition began. All birds were placed on a procedure in which a
12-sec green key light was followed after a 12-sec unfilled interval by 3-sec access to grain. For birds in the
Trace Compound group, a 12-sec, 1000-Hz, 88-dB
(SPL) tone was presented only during illuminations of
the green key light. For subjects in the remaining three
groups, the tone was on throughout ITIs and USs but
not during the CS-US gap. For birds in the No Overlap
group, the tone terminated at the moment of key-light
onset and did not come on again until US presentation
(i.e., the tone-off period lasted 24 sec). For birds in the
Partial Overlap group, the tone terminated 6 sec after
key-light onset, and thus 6 sec before key-light termination, and stayed off until US presentation (i.e., the
tone-off period lasted 18 sec). Birds in the Complete
Overlap group were trained like the ITI-fllled birds in
Experiment 2 except that the auditory filler was the tone
used in Experiment 3 and in the other groups of this
experiment; the tone remained on during the ITI and
the entire 12 sec of key-light presentation, terminated
at the same time as the key light,-and stayed off until
US presentation (i.e., the tone-off period lasted 12 sec).
Twenty-one daily training sessions of 34 trials were
given to each bird. All other stimulus conditions, temporal parameters, and so forth were the same as those
in Experiments 1 and 2 (see Tables 1 and 2).

Two birds in the Trace Compound group
had to be dropped from the experiment after
three conditioning sessions for failure to eat
reliably. Before being excluded, neither bird
had pecked the key light or showed any signs
of approaching it.
The strength of conditioned approach for
birds in the three ITI-filled groups (Complete Overlap, Partial Overlap, and No
Overlap) was directly related to the amount
of temporal overlap between the tone filler
and the key light CS. Figure 4 displays the
mean daily approach-withdrawal "ratios for
birds in all groups. High levels of approach
to the CS were exhibited by subjects trained
on the complete-overlap procedurethe same
arrangement as was successful in our earlier
experiments. Moderate levels of CS approach were shown by subjects irr the Partial
Overlap group, in which the tone filler terminated midway through CS presentations.
Little or no CS approach developed in subjects trained on the no-overlap procedure, in









Figure 4. Mean approach-withdrawal ratios to CS

across sessions for birds in the Complete Overlap, Partial Overlap, No Overlap, and Trace Compound groups
of Experiment 4.

which the tone terminated at the moment

of CS onset.
A mixed two-factor analysis of variance
was performed on the approach-withdrawal
ratios of birds in the three overlap groups.
The main effect of groups was highly significant, F(2, 21) = 13.82, p < .001, as was
the main effect of days and the Days X
Groups interaction, F(20, 420) = 5.01 and
F(40, 420) = 3.94, respectively, p < .001 in
both cases. Subsequent Newman-Keuls tests
carried out on the data collapsed across all
21 sessions indicated that birds in the Complete Overlap group exhibited significantly
stronger CS approach than did birds in the
Partial Overlap group (p < .05) and in the
No Overlap group (p < .01). Birds in the
Partial Overlap group showed significantly
stronger CS approach than did birds in the
No Overlap group (p < .05).
The mean numbers of key pecks per session over the 21 training days were 11.9,
35.0, and 16.8 for the Complete Overlap,
Partial Overlap, and No Overlap groups,
respectively. Variability was high, and none
of the differences between groups were statistically significant. Once again, the approach-withdrawal ratio proved a much
more sensitive measure of between-group
effects than did key-pecking frequency.
Occasional visual observation of the subjects over the last 10 days of the experiment
revealed that all pigeons in each of the overlap groups exhibited some kind of regular



but idiosyncratic behavior during the CSUS gap. Among these behaviors were offkey pecking, dark-key pecking, goal tracking, and head bobbing. However, there was
so much heterogeneity in each group with
respect to these responses that we could not
reliably distinguish the groups on this basis.
Birds in the Trace Compound group
showed virtually no approach or pecking to
CS, although one subject began to approach
and peck very late in training. The poor performance in this group resembled performance on conventional trace procedures (see
Experiments 1 and 3).
Strong approach to a CS separated from
US by an unfilled interval of 12 sec was obtained only when an ITI filler completely
overlapped presentations of the CS; across
groups, the strength of CS approach was
directly related to the degree of overlap between tone filler and key light CS.2 Mere
differentiation of stimulus conditions prevailing during an unfilled CS-US gap from
those in force during the ITI may be a necessary condition for successful "trace" conditioning, but it is apparently not a sufficient
one. Therefore, the discrimination hypothesis offered by Mowrer and Lamoreaux
(1951) cannot encompass the specific results
of the present experiment.
The failure of the trace-compound procedure to generate conditioned approach to
the CS suggests that the high approach levels shown by birds in the complete-overlap
condition in this and prior experiments cannot be explained by some sort of potentiation
of the persisting neural aftereffects of the
CS by the concurrent presence or cotermination of the CS and the ITI filler. Consequently, Kamin's comment (1965, p. 123)
that "presumably, trace conditioning depends upon the contiguity of a 'neural trace'
of the CS with the US" and that "thus a
weak CS might not produce a trace of sufficient magnitude to 'bridge the gap' between
CS and US" might well apply in certain situations, but it is unlikely to provide an explanation for the great superiority of the
complete-overlap groups in our experiments.
The differences between the overlap groups

also demonstrate that the reappearance of

the ITI filler at the time of US onset was
not important in bringing about the effects
obtained in Experiments 2 and 3. This procedural feature likewise was in force for all
three overlap groups in this experiment, but
large differences still emerged between them.
The present results seem basically consistent with the other two general accounts
(excitatory-inhibitory context in effect during CS presentation; second-order conditioning) proposed in the introduction to this experiment. Fiist of all, presentation of the CS
presumably occurred in what soon became
a weakly excitatory, nonexcitatory, or even
inhibitory local context (filler-on) in the
Complete Overlap group, whereas it was
presented in what soon became a presumably
highly excitatory context (filler-off, which
immediately preceded US) in the No Overlap group; the Partial Overlap group was
exposed to a condition intermediate between
the two others. If we can extend the type of
analyses offered by the Rescorla-Wagner
model (1972; cf. Leyland & Mackintosh,
1978) to elements whose onset and/or offset
are not closely contiguous with the US, the
stimulation provided by the termination of
the ITI filler ought to overshadow or block
control by the key-light stimulus in the No
Overlap group, whereas the reverse would
be true in the Complete Overlap group.
Looked at in a second way, which emphasizes the relation between CS and gap
conditions rather than between CS and US,
our findings are consistent with approaches
based on the relative predictiveness of the
CS: In the Complete Overlap group the
unique predictor of imminent filler absence
is key-light onset, whereas in the No Overlap
group key-light onset occurs simultaneously
with the start of the filler-absent period and
does not "predict" it. Therefore, a form of
second-order conditioning could account for
the findings of Experiment 4. Tone-off pe2
This conclusion is presumably not specific to the use
of a tone as the ITI filler, because we have found in
other work that separate groups of birds trained on the
no-overlap procedure with a clicker, red house light, or
complete blackout as the ITI filler (i.e., the gap fillers
of Experiment 1) also fail to acquire approach or keypecking behavior to the CS. To save space here, we do
not report details of these confirmatory findings.


riods may have functioned as first-order excitors, and key illuminations as second-order
exciters. Pavlov (1927, e.g., p. 33 and pp.
69-72) stated that sequential, nonoverlapping presentation of second-order and firstorder CSs should produce an excitatory second-order CS whereas simultaneous presentation of the two generally yields conditioned
inhibition. If true, such an assertion would
be compatible with the differences we obtained between the three overlap groups (our
Complete Overlap group involves lack of
coincidence between CS and tone-off periods). However, recent data do not completely support Pavlov's statement. Maisiak
and Frey (1977) found that second-order
conditioning was most likely to occur when
second- and first-order CSs partially or completely overlapped in rabbit eye-blink and
gerbil conditioned emotional response preparations. Furthermore, Rescorla (1980, p.
37) concluded that simultaneous sensory
preconditioning is frequently even more effective than successive sensory preconditioning when appropriate assays are employed
for comparing the two modes of presentation.
In any event, it is difficult to evaluafe the
merit of a second-order conditioning explanation, because most prior research has not
involved delivery of USs after CS2-CS,
trials. When it has (Cheatle & Rudy, 1978;
Holland, 1980), the strength of second-order
conditioning is appreciably weakened.
General Discussion
Although little or no autoshaping was obtained on conventional trace conditioning
procedures in which CS offset preceded food
delivery by 12 sec, strong approach to the
same CS developed if some auditory or visual stimulus filled the CS-US gap or was
present during all segments of experimental
sessions except for the gap. Furthermore,
high levels of approach to CS emerged even
with unfilled gaps of 30 or 60 sec between
CS and US, so long as some explicit external
stimulus was present at all other times. We
demonstrated that this facilitation of conditioning to a CS temporally distant from
US was not primarily produced by physical
similarity between CS and the added stim-


ulus, or by general spread to CS of the particular CRs that developed just before US
delivery, or by potentiation of the neural
aftereffects of the CS owing to the concurrent presence and/or cotermination of the
extra visual or auditory stimulus. However,
the amount of conditioning to CS did depend
on the degree of temporal overlap between
it and the ITI filler; when the CS overlapped
the final portion of that filler, strong conditioning to CS was obtained, but when the
CS came on after the filler terminated, no
conditioning to CS was evident.
It is clear that the absence of an explicit
external stimulus in CS-US gaps lasting as
long as 1 min does not preclude acquisition
of strong behavior to the CS. Close temporal
contiguity between CS and US is apparently
unnecessary for Pavlovian conditioning, provided that various segments of conditioning
cycles are filled, overlap each other, or are
sequentially related in certain ways.
The present series of experiments was
mainly instigated by Mowrer and Lamoreaux's (1951) hypothesis to account for failures of trace conditioning with aversiye USs.
Their interpretation proposed that on standard trace procedures the subject has difficulty discriminating between the two kinds
of unfilled intervals that it experiences, the
time periods between CS and US and the
time periods between US and the next CS
(i.e., ITIs). The presumption is that a CS
will not come to serve a signaling function
unless it provides differential information
with respect to events occurring in these two
time periods. Otherwise, conditioning to general situational or background cues will prevail and overshadow control by the CS. The
Mowrer-Lamoreaux interpretation predicts
that clear differentiation of,the two unfilled
segments of trace conditioning sessionsby
insertion of a distinctive external stimulus
either in the CS-US gap or in the ITI
should facilitate conditioning to the nominal
(trace) CS. Taken collectively, our experiments indicate that such differentiation of
the CS-US gap from the ITI is probably
essential for successful autoshaping to a CS
separated from US by a relatively long time
period. However, despite its utility in highlighting some relatively neglected factors in
Pavlovian conditioning, the Mowrer-La-



moreaux hypothesis is incomplete because

it cannot handle the differences we obtained
between the various overlap groups in Experiment 4, all of which received stimuli differentiating the ITI from the gap.
Besides its shortcomings in dealing with
the effects of ITI-filler-CS overlap, the differentiation account as suggested by Mowrer
and Lamoreaux is rather simplistic; it does
not propose any definite mechanisms or processes by which a trace CS should gain
strong control when the segments surrounding it are marked off from each other in a
distinctive way. We indicated earlier that
various contemporary theories of Pavlovian
conditioning stress the context in which CS
is presented, as well as the associative relation between CS and either the US itself
or the stimulus conditions in force during the
gap, i.e., the processes of either first-order
or second-order conditioning. Unfortunately, these and related approaches (e.g.,
Gibbon & Balsam, 1981; Mackintosh, 1975;
Pearce & Hall, 1980; Rescorla & Wagner,
1972; see also Dickinson, 1980, for a general
review and summary) have little to say about
(a) sequentially presented stimuli and (b)
CSs that are not closely contiguous to the
USs with which they are positively correlated. However, their interpretations of the
role of contextual stimulation, the phenomena of overshadowing and blocking, and associative competition between elements of
stimulus compounds may provide a general
background for our attempt to integrate the
results of the present set of experiments.
Rather than speculating on how each of several different theoretical approaches might
possibly handle our findings, we instead offer
a relatively brief and nonquantitative interpretation that reflects the influences of such
approaches but is not clearly an outgrowth
of any single one of them.
We find it useful to subdivide the "context" in which a CS appears into two categories, general and local; local contexts are
embedded in general contexts.3 In contemporary learning theory, on the other hand,
contextual cues typically refer only to stable,
unvarying, continuously present situational
stimuli, which are nevertheless considered
to have functional properties similar to the
phasic, comparatively brief and infrequent

events that are usually employed as CSs in

studies of conditioning (cf. Nadel & Willner,
1980). However, in our and various other
procedural arrangements, not only are such
general situational cues available for potential conditioning, but sessions are also segmented into distinct periods that surround
or overlap CS presentations, i.e., ITIs and
CS-US gaps. Thus a "trial" in many, if not
all, conditioning experiments may be most
accurately described as a cycle or succession
of events rather than merely as the presentation of a CS in relation to some US against
a general background. In any case, our findings highlight the probable importance of
two factors: (a) the discriminability from
each other of the local contexts surrounding
and/or overlapping CSs, a factor that is presumably linked closely to (i) the relative salience of the specific external stimuli prevailing in the ITI versus gap periods and
(ii) the relative temporal durations of ITIs
and gaps (not systematically examined in the
experiments reported here, but cf. Lucas et
al., 1981); in the latter case a CS may serve
to demarcate two unfilled but unequal time
intervals, permitting a "temporal discrimination" between them, and (b) the excitatory or inhibitory state of the local context
in which a CS temporally remote from US
A three-stage process seems to be involved
in the successful acquisition observed in the
present experiments to a CS separated from
US by 12-60 sec. Like many other experimenters, we assume that excitatory conditioning takes place quickly to the general
contextparticularly in the .case of autoshaping, which typically entails several preliminary sessions of magazine training without any presentations of CSs or filler stimuli.
Conditioning to the general context obviously has a head start under such an arrangement. If standard trace conditioning
is then begun with unfilled ITIs and gaps,
the rapidly established conditioning to the
general context should block or overshadow
the development of excitatory control by CS,
which in any event stands in a relatively un3

In some cases, it may be worthwhile to view general

apparatus cues as local contexts, in relation to the entire
daily life of an experimental organism,- mainly spent in
its home cage.


favorable contiguous relation with US. Presumably, lack of CS-US contiguity operates
as weak CS salience does in the. RescorlaWagner model. In fact, using a technique
for measuring contextual associations devised by Odling-Smee (1975), Marlin (Note
1) showed that fear of the general context
is directly related to the length of the CSUS gap in aversive trace conditioning
whereas fear of the CS is inversely related
to the length of the CS-US gap.
However, after this first stage involving
excitatory conditipning to the general background' has progressed, the presence of definite cues distinguishing the ITI and gap in
our experiments should eventually lead to
the acquisition of inhibitory and excitatory
strength by the respective stimulus conditions in force during these local contexts.
The degree to which such excitatory and inhibitory strength develops will, of course,
depend on the relative salience and duration
of the two local contexts as well as the probability of US delivery in each. Our "filler"
experiments, which involved segmentation
of sessions into cycles of two periods comprising (a) an unreinforced initial interval
(ITI) that was on the average five to six
times longer than the terminal interval (gap)
and (b) a terminal interval that always
ended with US delivery, would be expected
to produce relatively strong excitation during the terminal interval and probably some
degree of inhibition during the initial interval. Furthermore, excitatory conditioning to
the general context should gradually become
weaker owing to the presence of a better
predictor of US delivery times, i.e., stimulus
conditipns in the gap.
After this second stage has progressed far
enough so that the local contexts have acquired some above-threshold degree of excitatory and/or inhibitory power, it appears
that even a brief CS temporally distant from
but positively correlated with US cart acquire excitatory strength if it is presented in
a relatively nonexcitatory or inhibitory local
context. Such was apparently the outcome
in all our serial conditioning arrangements
(Experiment 1) and all the ITI-filler arrangements with complete overlap of CS and
ITI filler (Experiments 2-4). On the other
hand, if this kind of CS is presented during


an excitatory local contextas was presumably the case for our No Overlap group in
Experiment 4it will not normally gain
much, if any, excitatory power of its own
(depending, of course, on the CS's salience,
duration, and distance from US).
According to this general interpretation,
standard trace conditioning arrangements as
well as our no-overlap procedure fail to produce strong conditioned responses to CS not
only because the CS stands in an unfavorable temporal relation to US but, perhaps
more important, because the CS is also presented against an excitatory background.
Thus, the growth of positive associative
strength to CS in the third stage of our presumed acquisition sequence depends on processes analogous to those underlying instances of "superconditioning" reported by
Rescorla (1971; see also Blanchard & Honig,
1976; Dickinson & Dearing, 1979). Rescorla
found that a standard positive CS becomes
much more powerfully conditioned if presented in combination with an already inhibitory rather than a neutral or excitatory
stimulus. If our speculations are correct, this
type of process can override an otherwise
unfavorable degree of contiguity between
CS and US and can operate in situations in
which the CS is presented prior to and concurrently with the establishment of inhibition or the removal of excitation to a local
Our use of filler stimuli in the gap or ITI
produced arrangements that fulfill many of
Jhe features of conventional second-order
conditioning procedures (see also Egger &
Miller, 1962, 1963). However, the present
experiments differed from standard studies
of second-order conditioning in our use of
stimulus absence as the presumptive firstorder excitor (Experiments 2-4) and in our
pairing of CS (the presumed second-order
excitor) with the first-order excitor and the
US on every trial from the outset of training.
Usually, the first-order excitor is established
beforehand by pairings with US, and then
the second-order stimulus is introduced,
paired only with the first-order stimulus and
never with the US. It may be worth pointing
out that, even on this usual procedure, predifferentiation of two local contexts also occurs; stimulus conditions during the (empty)



Ills have presumably become inhibitory

before the second-order stimulus is ever introduced during those conditions.
In contrast to our stress on the excitatory
versus inhibitory state of the local context
in which a CS temporally remote from US
is presented, one could argue that the simplest account of our results would focus on
the contiguity and relative predictiveness of
the CS with respect to a first-order exciter,
the distinctive stimulus condition appearing
during the gapregardless of whether presence or absence of some stimulus is involved
there (in our experiments no clear-cut differences between "presence" and "absence"
were detected, but it is possible that further
analysis will reveal important differences
along these lines). Such a second-order conditioning account (see also Pearce et al.,
1981) would grant that the gap conditions
would first have to be differentiated from
conditions during the ITI but that once the
gap stimulus becomes excitatory, its power
to condition an immediately preceding CS
depends simply on that CS's relative ability
to predict it. In the serial arrangements of
Experiment 1 and the complete-overlap conditions of Experiments 2-4, the CS would
serve as a unique predictor of the first-order
excitor, whereas in the no-overlap arrangement of Experiment 4, CS onset coincided
with the start of the presumptive first-order
excitor and would not predict it, thus accounting for the lack of conditioning to CS
on that arrangement. This type of interpretation stresses the relations between the CS
and the gap conditions, rather than the role
of the US in creating inhibitory and excitatory local contexts for modulating the effectiveness of CS. A definite choice between
these theoretical alternatives may not be
necessary, since both could be operating to
bring about the effects described here. Furthermore, the two types of explanation are
likely to be eventually integrated into a single unified approach, as we come to learn
more about the role of local contexts in sequential conditioning.
In a recent study Rescorla (1982) used
within-subject designs to cbmpare serial and
trace autoshaping procedures. His results
nicely complement the findings we obtained
in Experiment 1: The insertion of auditory
or visual stimuli in the CS-US gap facili-

tated pecking to a key light CS. Differential

conditioning to general background cues
cannot easily account for such results, and
Rescorla also was dubious about second-order conditioning interpretations, on the basis
of the outcomes he obtained from application of standard assays for higher-order conditioning (Rescorla, 1980). Rescorla speculated that the inserted stimulus serves a kind
of "catalytic" function, promoting the association between the CS and the US or that
it acts in gestaltlike fashion to perceptually
link the CS and US. Such views need to be
spelled out in more detail before their value
can be assessed; for example, it is hard to
see how they could specifically handle the
differences we obtained between the various
overlap conditions in Experiment 4.
Regardless of the theoretical approach
one favors to handle our and related results,
the present set of experiments indicates that
lack of contiguity between a CS and an upcoming US does not preclude conditioning
to that CS. Contiguity does not seem to function in the absolute fashion that is often implied in descriptions of its actionfor example, in terms of some decaying neural
trace of the CS. Effects of the CS-US interval are clearly dependent on the stimulus
conditions prevailing in various segments of
experimental sessions as well as on the relative durations of the ITI, CS, and gap. This
general conclusion should encourage students of Pavlovian conditioning to carefully
reexamine the term "contiguity" and to be
more analytical with respect to its explanatory status.
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Received June 11, 1981