chapter  17
20 Pages

An Ecological Approach to Stimulus Control and Tracking

WithMark Rilling

Stimulus control is one of the core concepts of animal learning theory. The basic idea is that stimulus control is observed when a change in a particular property of a stimulus produces a consistent change in a response variable such as choice or response rate. Consider the classical demonstration of stimulus control. When the stimulus is a complex event or a bird song, the experimenter is forced to confront two problems: perception and representation. Integrating stimulus control with theories of perception and representation points toward new experiments that would not emerge from a simple theory of stimulus control. The prediction is that the slope of the stimulus generalization gradient for degrading vertices is steeper than the generalization gradient for random degradation or degradation of pixels that do not represent vertices. The preceding study illustrates how problems in perceptual stimulus control can be approached with a standard methodology for measuring stimulus control in animals.