Special issue of Revista de Historia de la Psicología dedicated to the work Robert A. Rescorla

A new special issue of Revista de Historia de la Psicología dedicated to the work Robert A. Rescorla will be of interest to AHP readers. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“Introduction to the Special Issue: Robert A. Rescorla: The Heir of Pavlov,” by Javier Bandrés.

“Robert Rescorla: Pavlov 2.0 and a Model Academic Psychologist. [Robert Escorla: Pavlov 2.0 y Modelo de Psicólogo Académico],” Paul Rozin. Abstract:

Pavlov is one of the greatest psychologists. Being Pavlov 2.0 is very special. Although there are a number of distinguished students of Pavlovian conditioning, at least in my opinion, Bob Rescorla is the heir to Pavlov. But although Pavlov 2.0 is more than enough, there is a lot more. As discussed later, I see Bob as a linking person between the psychology of learning, perhaps the centerpiece of American academic psychology in the mid twentieth century, to cognitive psychology, its successor in the late 20th century.

“Robert Rescorla: Time, Information and Contingency. [Robert Rescorla: Tiempo, Información y Contingencia],” C. R. Gallistel. Abstract:

Rescorla’s first theoretical and experimental papers on the truly random control (random, independent presentations of CSs and USs) showed that associative learning was driven by contingency, that is, by the information that events at one time provide about events located elsewhere in time. This discovery has revolutionary neurobiological and philosophical implications. The problem was that Rescorla was unable to derive a function that mapped conditional probabilities into contingencies. Rescorla and Wagner (1972) proposed a hugely influential model for explaining Rescorla’s results, but their model ignored his earlier insights about time, temporal order, information and contingency in conditioning. Their paper pioneered an empirically indefensible treatment of time that has continued in associative theorizing down to the present day. A key to a more defensible approach to the cue competition problem (aka the temporal assignment of credit problem) in Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning is to measure the information that cues and responses provide about the wait for reinforcement and the information that reinforcement provides about the recency of a response.

Pavlovian Conditioning: It’s not what you think it is – Part II. [El condicionamiento pavloviano: no es lo que tú crees. Segunda parte],” Jan De Houwer. Abstract:

In a highly cited paper, Rescorla (1988) argued that conditioning can be thought of as involving active information seeking and causal reasoning. In this paper, I argue that the full implications of this perspective are yet to be explored. The idea of causal reasoning (a) does not fit well with the association formation models that currently dominate conditioning research and (b) goes beyond the notion of prediction error as the dominant source of learning. As such, Rescorla’s (1988) perspective is bound to remain a source of inspiration for future research.

“The magic mirror of Robert Rescorla’s methodological behaviorism. [El espejo mágico del conductismo metodológico de Robert Rescorla],” Juan M. Rosas. Abstract:

Learning research assumes that the underlying learning processes are mirrored in behavior. However, learning may or may not show as a change in behavior, and a behavioral change may or may not be the result of learning. Thus, behavior turns to be a distorted mirror of what the organism has in its head, and learning researchers put a great effort in designing control conditions to ensure that what the mirror reflects is the learning process responsible. Here I present my tribute to Robert Rescorla and his uncanny ability to use clever designs to allow behavior to separate among different underlying learning processes. I will use the research about the contents of learning as the guiding thread, connecting the results of Rescorla’s research in nonhuman animals with recent research on the same issue in human associative learning.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.