Rats learn to eat more to avoid hunger

S Jarvandi, L Thibault, David Booth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


Several recent experiments have provided evidence that the ingestion of a distinctive food by rats can be a learnt instrumental act as well as an associatively conditioned reaction. In the previous work, maintenance food was withheld for shorter and longer durations on different days following access to the training food. Extra eating before the longer fast was interpreted as avoidance of hunger. This interpretation was based on the evidence showing that extra eating as a result of classical conditioning comes from pairing food stimuli with the presence of little or no hunger because of repletion with energy nutrients. The theory that the extra eating arose from a response-depletion contingency was tested in the present experiment by training rats on only a long fast or only a short fast. Greater increase in intake was seen before the longer fast. The results also replicated previously seen cycles of increase, decrease, and renewed increase in putative deficit-avoidant eating over about three trials, indicating that the extra eating reduces the response-reinforcing hunger and that the consequent part-extinction restores reinforcement. The shape of the learning curve was consistent with these cycles occurring from the start of training, further supporting the view that the increase in food intake before a long delay in refeeding is hunger-reinforced instrumental behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-671
Number of pages9
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jan 2008
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


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