Genetic differences in avoidance learning by Rattus norvegicus: escape/avoidance responding, sensitivity to electric shock, discrimination learning, and open-field behavior.

F. R. Brush, S. Baron, J. C. Froehlich, J. R. Ison, L. J. Pellegrino, D. S. Phillips, P. C. Sakellaris, V. N. Williams

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51 Scopus citations


The behaviors of rats selectively bred for either good or poor shuttle box avoidance learning were studied. The results of Experiment 1 indicated that the phenotypic difference in avoidance learning is not associated with differences in speed of escape or avoidance responding. Differences between the lines in frequency of intertrial responses (ITRs), which appear during training but not during pretest, suggest that ITRs in animals of the low-avoidance (SLA) line are more suppressed by electric shock than in animals of the high-avoidance (SHA) line. This result suggests that SLA animals may be more emotionally responsive than SHA animals. Experiment 2 demonstrated that the animals of the two lines do not differ in absolute sensitivity to electric shock, and Experiment 3 showed that the poor performance of the SLA line is not due to an inability to learn. Experiment 3 also provided evidence which suggests that the poor avoidance learning by SLA animals is due to their emotional reactivity. Observations of open-field behavior in Experiment 4 are consistent with this hypothesis. The major consistent correlate of the phenotypic difference in avoidance learning is greater emotionality or emotional reactivity in SLA than in SHA animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-73
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of comparative psychology (Washington, D.C. : 1983)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1985


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)

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