Spontaneous recovery

Spontaneous recovery

In classical conditioning, spontaneous recovery or resurgence in operant conditioning, is the reemergence of a conditioned response which has been previously extinguished. Spontaneous recoveries tend to yield somewhat muted responses in which extinction occurs more readily.

For example, a dog's conditioned response of salivating to a bell will often, after it has been extinguished, reappear when the dog later hears the sound of a bell. This phenomenon is known as "spontaneous recovery." To Pavlov (1972), the phenomenon of spontaneous recovery indicated that extinction is not simply a process of unlearning the conditioning that has taken place. Rather, extinction involves learning something new, namely, to inhibit the occurrence of the conditioned response in the presence of the conditioned stimulus. For example, rather than unlearning the the response of salivation to the metronome during extinction, the dog learns to inhibit the response of salivation to the metronome, with the connection between metronome and salivation remaining intact on some underlying level. Spontaneous recovery may therefore represent the partial dissipation of this inhibition during the rest period between extinction sessions.

Spontaneous recovery helps explain why it is so hard to overcome drug addictions. For example, cocaine addicts who are thought to be "cured" can experience an irresistible impulse to use the drug again if they are subsequently confronted by a stimulus with strong connections to the drug, such as a white powder (O'Brien et al., 1992; Drummond et al., 1995; DiCano & Everitt, 2002).


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  • spontaneous recovery — n reappearance of an extinguished conditioned response without positive reinforcement …   Medical dictionary

  • spontaneous recovery — noun Date: 1943 reappearance of an extinguished conditioned response without positive reinforcement …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • spontaneous recovery — noun : reappearance of an extinguished conditioned response without further positive reinforcement …   Useful english dictionary

  • Spontaneous remission — In medicine, spontaneous remission is recovery without known reason or cause.cite book | last = Bakal| first = Donald A. | title = Minding the Body: Clinical Uses of Somatic Awareness| publisher = Guilford Publications| date = 2001| pages = p 163 …   Wikipedia

  • spontaneous remission — noun Recovery without treatment • • • Main Entry: ↑spontaneous …   Useful english dictionary

  • recovery — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ amazing, astonishing (BrE), dramatic, excellent, miraculous, remarkable ▪ Laura made a miraculous recovery. ▪ good …   Collocations dictionary

  • spontaneous — Without apparent cause; said of disease processes or remissions. [L. spontaneus, voluntary, capricious] * * * spon·ta·ne·ous spän tā nē əs adj 1) proceeding from natural feeling or native tendency without external constraint 2) developing without …   Medical dictionary

  • spontaneous — adj. VERBS ▪ appear, be, seem ADVERB ▪ genuinely ▪ quite, totally ▪ appare …   Collocations dictionary

  • recovery — 1. A getting back or regaining; recuperation. 2. Emergence from general anesthesia. 3. In nuclear magnetic resonance, refers to relaxation. [M.E., fr. O.Fr. recoverer, fr. L. recupero, to recover, get back, fr. re , again, + capio, to take] …   Medical dictionary

  • spontaneous — adj. arising without apparent cause or outside aid. The term is applied in medicine to certain conditions, such as pathological fractures, that arise in the absence of outside injury; also to recovery from a disease without the aid of specific… …   The new mediacal dictionary

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