Research Topics



Principal Investigator: Michael Best
Abstract: One of the most robust phenomena in animal learning is the rat's ability to associate flavored substances with toxin-induced internal aversive states. Previous investigations of taste-aversion learning have stressed the noncognitive, primitive aspects of this conditioning, arguing that the learning invariably occurs when a novel flavor is experienced in conjunction with toxicosis. In contrast to this emphasis, recent findings from our laboratories suggest that informational variables also have an important role in taste-aversion conditioning. The proposed experiments will extend and analyze our earlier findings. Various approaches to the investigation of informational influences on learning about edibles will be pursued. One focuses on the deleterious effects on taste-aversion learning of presenting the aversion-inducing agent (lithium chloride in most of the experiments) shortly (30-90 min.) before a taste-toxicosis conditioning trial. A second set of experiments is directed at determining the effects of a taste experience on the short- and long-term processing of information concerning that flavor. Each investigation is designed to evaluate competing theoretical explanations of the results. Theories, such as Wagner's recent priming and rehearsal model, which are relevant to all three of the proposed lines of research, are given special consideration since such theories promise to integrate the somewhat disparate approaches to the study of informational influences on learning about edibles.
Funding Period: 1978-01-01 - 1981-12-31
more information: NIH RePORT