Robert Rescorla

Professor Emeritus

BA, Swarthmore College;

Ph.D., Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

Office Location: 
Solomon Labs, 3720 Walnut St, Room D9
Research Interests: 
Animal Learning and Behavior
Behavioral Neuroscience
Memory and Learning
Specific Research Areas: 

Associative learning processes

Research Synopsis: 
Our work centers on the nature of elementary associative learning processes, especially as exemplified by Pavlovian conditioning and instrumental training. The recent research has addressed three broad questions: (a) What are the circumstances that produce associative learning? Here the work has ranged from the development of a quantitative model of conditioning to the exploration of the role of such perceptual variables as similarity in determining associative learning. (b) What are the contents of that learning? For instance, in Pavlovian conditioning, how are the events that are associated encoded? In instrumental training, what associations are learned among the response, the outcome, and the stimulus? (c) By what rules does learning map into performance.

We investigate questions of these sorts using a variety of Pavlovian paradigms: fear conditioning, flavor-aversion learning, and instrumental reward training in rodents, as well as autoshaping in birds. The investigation involves analytical use of such procedures as second-order conditioning, sensory precondtioning, blocking, conditioned inhibition, and outcome revaluation.

The long-term goal of the research is to provide a characterization and theoretical understanding of simple associative learning.

Selected Publications: 

Rescorla, R. A. (2000). Associative changes in excitors and inhibitors differ when they are conditioned in compound. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 26, 428-438

Rescorla, R. A. (2001). Experimental Extinction, In R. R. Mowrer & S. Klein (Eds.) Handbook of contemporary learning theories. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 119-154.

Rescorla, R. A. (2002). Savings Tests: Separating differences in rate of learning from differences in initial levels. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 28, 369-377.

Rescorla, R. A. (2002). Comparison of the rates of associative change during acquisition and extinction. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 28, 406-415.

Rescorla, R. A. (2003). Contemporary study of Pavlovian conditioning. Spanish Journal of Psychology, 6, 185-195

Rescorla, R. A. (2004). Spontaneous Recovery. Learning and Memory, 11, 501-509.

Rescorla, R. A. (2005). Spontaneous recovery of excitation but not inhibition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 31, 277-288.

Rescorla, R. A. (2006) Deepened Extinction from Compound Stimulus Presentation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 32, 135-144.

Rescorla, R. A. (2008). Evaluating conditioning of related and unrelated stimuli using a compound test. Learning and Behavior, 36, 67-74.

Rescorla, R. A. (2008). Conditioning of stimuli with nonzero initial value. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 34, 315-323.