The extinction context enables extinction performance after a change in context.
In three experiments, we assessed the role of signals for changes in the consequences of cues as a potential account of the renewal effect. Experiment 1 showed recovery of responding following extinction when acquisition, extinction, and test phases occurred in different contexts. In addition, extinction treatment in multiple contexts attenuated context-induced response recovery. In Experiment 2, we used presentations of an extraneous stimulus (ES), instead of context shifts, and found that responding recovered from extinction only when the ES was presented both between acquisition and extinction and between extinction and test. In Experiment 3, we used a reversal learning design in which, during training, two cues were first paired with different outcomes, then paired with the alternative outcomes, and finally paired again with the original outcomes. In this experiment, presentation, just prior to testing, of an ES that had previously been presented between the different phases produced an expectation of reversal in the meaning of the cues.