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Dominic John Repici
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Periodicity Reflex

Most commonly: Temporal Conditioning — Periodicity Reflex is a descriptive name for the CR during periodic, or “temporal” conditioning. I will also use related terms: Periodicity Conditioned Reflex - Periodicity Conditioning - Periodic Response.

All these terms refer to a form of classical conditioning that was introduced and described—but never named—in Pavlov's third lecture. These are the names used to refer to that agent. As stated, many who are more authoritative about this subject than I refer to this as Temporal Conditioning, but for now, I will try to avoid using that term in my writing (see below for my reasons).

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Compound Form

In Periodicity Conditioning's compound form, a conventional conditioned response (CR) is elicited to a conventional CS that occurs cyclically at a specific interval of clock time. For example: A bell (the conventional CS) is sounded every 30 minutes, which is associated with an unconditioned stimulus (say food). This produces a conditioned response to the bell. After this continues for a while, the bell will invoke the conditioned response, but only when the time is near the 30-minute interval. Ringing the bell after 10 minutes (for example) will not elicit the conditioned response.

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Simple (General) Form

Similar results can be had without the bell in the non-compound, or simple form of periodicity conditioning. In its simple form, periodicity conditioning describes conditioning in which the US (e.g., food) is presented at regular intervals, causing the interval-period itself to become the CS. The CR is that the animal exhibits the UR at the regular periodic intervals, but is silent during the in-between periods.

In Pavlov's (translated) words:

"When we come to seek an interpretation of these results, it seems pretty evident that the duration of time has acquired the properties of a conditioned stimulus".

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Conventions Used In My Writings:

I may refer to the periodicity-based CS as the CPS (Conditioned Periodicity Stimulus), and the periodicity-based CR as CPR (Conditioned Periodic Response). When describing the compound case I will refer to the conventional CS and CR as simply the CS, or CR (or CS+/CS-, or CR#/CS# if rising/falling edges, or multiple conventional CSs are involved).

When describing the period-based CS and CR I will use the qualified representations. That is, CPS and CPR will only be used to describe the period or periods that are serving as the CS period-based stimuli in the experiments.

The unconditioned stimulus used in compound forms remains, simply, an Unconditioned Stimulus (US). The interval-period at which the US is being presented is the CPS.

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Confusion About Periodicity Conditioning

There are three sources of confusion involving periodicity reflexes/conditioning, as well as another form of reflex called trace reflex (also: trace conditioning trace reflex conditioning, etc.). These three sources of confusion are:

1. Pavlov Didn't Name It When He Introduced It

The name used here is of my own choosing. It has been selected to be as unambiguously descriptive of the labeled concept as possible. That said, because it is my own term, you will probably only find it used here, unless others agree with my opinion about the commonly used name which has emerged.

2. The Common Name Which Has Emerged For It Obscures the Underlying Concept

The use of the term "temporal conditioning" to describe the concept defined here is, in my opinion, inappropriate. Specifically, it is a misnomer, because (almost?) all forms of classical conditioning are temporally based. That is, almost all forms of classical conditioning (including this one) are based on stimulus pairings, in which one stimulus comes:
  • at the same time,
  • at some interval of time AFTER,
  • at some interval of time BEFORE, or
  • at a regular period of frequency which serves as
the other stimulus.

In other words, almost ALL forms of conditioning are temporal conditioning. Also, trace conditioning further muddies any claim to the term describing only the CS (as the cycle-period does in a CPS).

There are other possibilities involving compound cases of these example forms, but temporality remains the primary characteristic in all of them (or nearly all).

3. Periodicity Reflex(Temporal Conditioning) is NOT Trace Reflex

In Pavlov's lecture that introduced this agent, immediately following his discussion of trace reflexes, he described a final form of "agents which can be transformed into a conditioned stimulus". Because he didn't name this final agent, and because he began discussing it while still in his description of trace reflexes, this concept is sometimes conflated with trace reflexes. They have nothing in common.

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My Reasons for Using the Term: "Periodicity Conditioning", Instead of: "Temporal Conditioning"

  • The term: "temporal conditioning" is not descriptive. It obfuscates, rather than discloses, the underlying definition it is being used to label. This alone would not be sufficient to justify the further confusion added by using a different label, however...

  • When used in its broader sense to describe similar contexts, the word "temporal" may become inadvertently conflated with the term: "temporal conditioning".

    • You will see the word "temporal" used, often in very closely related ways, to describe behavioral concepts that include, and can be described with, its broader accepted usage. One small, but glaring example of this issue is that ALL the classical conditioned reflex-types (including periodicity) include a temporal component.

    • Discussions may contain very few cues to distinguish the broad usage of the word "temporal" from its specific usage in the term "temporal conditioning". Discussions that have nothing to do with frequency may include temporal evaluations. For example, descriptions of temporal phenomena in relation to behavior may be using the word to describe tense (sequence), or ratio- and spatio-temporal matters involving more complex causality issues. Issues that may not be directly related to the frequency-domain. For example, we can find terms like: "the monotonous repetition of a specific temporal pattern of stimulation", and: "We confuse questions of causal order with questions of temporal order because we always view causes as being temporally antecedent to their effects.". These phrases may, or may not be talking about periodicity (i.e., oscillatory) effects.

    • The term "Periodicity Conditioning" is much less likely to be confused with other concepts. The term "Periodicity Conditioning" is not often used in unrelated descriptions, because it more precisely describes the underlying concept it represents. For this reason, it is less likely to be inadvertently evoked when discussing similar but otherwise unrelated concepts.

  • Because the word "periodicity" is more descriptive of the underlying concept, it just works, and flows, better in descriptions that involve the underlying concept. — As described above, for example: in descriptions of experiments, if describing the compound case, you can use CS and CR to describe the conventional CS and its CR, while using CPS or CPR to describe the Conditioned Periodic Stimulus, or its period-based response.

Also: Classical Conditioning     Trace Reflex    


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