Revaluation of Overselected Stimuli: Emergence of Control by Underselected Stimuli Depends on Degree of Overselectivity
Stimulus overselectivity describes strong control by one stimulus element at the expense of other equally relevant elements. Research suggests that control by underselected stimuli emerges following extinction of the overselected stimulus (“revaluation”) and the emergence is larger when overselectivity is greater. We compared such revaluation effects with a control compound or condition in two experiments. Human participants chose between compound S+ and S- stimuli. Then, to assess control by compound-stimulus elements, participants chose between individual elements in a testing phase without feedback. The S+ element chosen most often (the overselected element) underwent revaluation, during which choice of that element was extinguished and choice of a novel element reinforced. Thereafter, participants completed a retesting phase. Revaluation reduced choice of the overselected element. Choice of the underselected element decreased for participants with low overselectivity but increased for participants with high overselectivity. This was not the case for a control compound that did not undergo revaluation (Experiments 1 and 2) or in a control condition in which the overselected element continued to be reinforced during revaluation (Experiment 2). These findings suggest that overselectivity levels may modulate revaluation effects, and they also highlight the importance of the contingency change in postrevaluation changes in stimulus control.