5:30 P.M.

Beyond R-W: A symposium in honor of Allan Wagner

Allan Wagner Symposium - Organized by J.W. “Bill” Whitlow 

(Rutgers University, Camden)

Allan Wagner was perhaps best known for his theorizing about the formation of simple associations in classical conditioning, especially his work with Bob Rescorla to produce the Rescorla-Wagner theory of conditioning.  However, he made many other seminal contributions to theory and methodology, including analyses of habituation, contextual learning, and the ways in which multiple response measures and multiple outcomes may have complex effects on associative learning.  This symposium presents research and theory that explores these topics, from habituation to conditioning and human learning.

Simulation of habituation and sensitization with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) model

Edgar H. Vogel (Universidad de Talca), Orlando E. Jorquera (Federal University of Southern Bahia-UFSB) &Javier Lopez-Caldederón (Newencode, Talca)

Allan Wagner´s SOP theory is a computational implementation of the idea of priming, which is that expected events are rendered less effective than unexpected events. Thus, Wagner and his colleagues devoted considerable effort in using SOP´s machinery to describe the regularities of habituation, a relatively simple and universal form of behavioral plasticity, which consists of a decrease in the response to a repeated stimulus. However, apart from a few speculations, they paid far less attention to a related phenomenon, sensitization, that allegedly co-exists with habituation. The notion of sensitization has been invoked to explain the fact that, if certain conditions are met, the behavioral decrement that normally follows stimulus repetition might be delayed, reduced, restored or even replaced by a transient or relatively permanent increment in the response      

Here, based on the ideas outlined by Brandon and Wagner in the ASEOP model, and using computer simulations, we demonstrate the potential of Wagner´s framework to embrace the major facts of habituation and sensitization in an integrated way.

Evaluation of associative nature of habituation in earthworms

Concepcion Paredes-Olay (University of Jaen)

Wagner’s proposal offers a frame to address associative and non-associative phenomena, as Pavlovian conditioning and habituation, applying general principles derived from human memory and associative animal learning. In these experiments, the associative nature of contextual specificity of habituation of the Lumbricidae earthworms’ retraction response to a light is explored. In particular, we assessed whether this contextual specificity relies on a retrieval-generated priming mechanism mediated by an association between the context and the light, which is one of the mechanisms proposed by Wagner’s theory. We tested the potential disruptive effects of post-exposure (extinction effect) and pre-exposure of the context (latent inhibition effect) on the establishment of a context-US association. The results of these experiments prove that, under certain circumstances, habituation could rely upon a context-US association, showing some degree of complexity in the behavior of these “simple” species. Moreover, they add to the body of evidence showing the huge impact of Wagner’s proposal on the research of learning in invertebrates.

Information processing in Larval Zebrafish

Ruth M. Colwill (Brown University)

How does the interstimulus interval (ISI) affect learning about a repeatedly presented stimulus and what is the nature of that learning? These two questions were examined empirically in mammals (rats and rabbits) by Allan Wagner and his students, and their findings led to the development of an information processing approach to stimulus learning. In this talk, I will describe some data from my lab using larval zebrafish (Danio rerio) to study the ISI, stimulus specificity and dishabituation, and I will discuss them within the framework of the dual memory model of habituation pioneered by Wagner’s laboratory.

Further explorations of a multi-layer connectionist network model of Pavlovian learning

Andrew Delamater (Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, CUNY)

One of Allan Wagner’s main contributions to learning theory has been acknowledging that interactions among stimuli and their internal stimulus representations are fundamental to understanding associative learning.  Another significant contribution concerns the development of a formal way of thinking about how multiple aspects of reward might be encoded by an associative system.  In this talk, I would like to discuss how a multi-layered connectionist network modeling approach can be used to capture some of the key insights that Wagner and his colleagues developed over the years (especially regarding stimulus interactions and differential reward encoding), and apply these ideas to patterning phenomena, differential outcome, and interval timing effects.  While I will not provide all the answers, I hope to at least show how the approach can provide a useful framework for further theoretical developments of associative learning.