By Stephen Walker
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Extra info for Animal Learning: An Introduction
If, because two different stimuli are associated in the environment, a response to one is given to the other, then, in the first place, the animal involved has increased rather than decreased its behavioural repertoire. And, theoretically, a device has been found which glues together any two sensory experiences, allowing in principle for the assembling of parts into wholes, for the detection of causal relationships, and for the reconstruction of indefinitely long sequences of mental representations.
If compound stimuli of, say tones and lights, usually occur, then missing out one of the elements of the compound will reinstate attentive responses and, generally speaking, the amount of attention engaged will be proportional to the amount of change in the parameters of the complex stimulus (Sokolov, 1975, p. 218). A very direct way of demonstrating the incorporation of time values into the representation of the stimulus is simply to miss out a stimulus occasionally in a normally regular sequence.
The experimental test to demonstrate that response fatigue is not responsible for a decline in response involves changing the stimulus — if a stronger (or in some cases just a weaker or different) stimulus 38 brings back the response, then simple response fatigue cannot have been the cause of the response decline (Humphrey, 1930, 1933). This is called ‘dishabituation’. Often giving a new stimulus will not only bring back response to the new stimulus, but will also mean that responses will start to be given again to the old stimulus.