Urcelay_Jonkman_2019_JEP_ALC.pdf (610.85 kB)
Download file

Delayed rewards facilitate habit formation

Download (610.85 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 05.08.2019, 15:40 by Gonzalo P. Urcelay, Sietse Jonkman
The transition from goal-directed to habitual forms of instrumental behaviour is determined by variables such as the amount of training, schedules of reinforcement, the availability of choices, and exposure to drugs of abuse. Less is known about the control of goal-directed behaviour when reinforcement is delayed rather than immediate. In these experiments, we investigated in rats the role of response-outcome contiguity on the control of goal-directed action, assessed through satiety-specific outcome devaluation tests. In Experiment 1 using a within-subjects design we observed goal-directed behaviour after six days of FR1 training when the outcome was presented immediately following the lever press, but not when it was delayed for 20 s, revealing habit formation with delayed outcomes. Experiment 2 revealed that the habitual control observed with 20 s delays of reinforcement can be prevented if, immediately before each instrumental training session, the rats were exposed to the experimental context in the absence of both the lever and reinforcement. In summary, these experiments suggest that response-outcome contiguity plays an important role in the control of goal-directed actions and habits.


This study was funded by a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (PIEF-GA-2009-237608) awarded by the European Commission to Gonzalo Urcelay and Jeff Dalley. All or part of these findings were presented by Urcelay and Jonkman at the Associative Learning Symposium at Gregynog (Wales, UK), in 2011, and by Urcelay et al., at the International Meeting of the Spanish Society for Comparative Psychology (Meeting in Avila, 2018).



Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 2019

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF LIFE SCIENCES/Biological Sciences/Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition


American Psychological Association



Acceptance date


Copyright date


Available date


Publisher version



All data analysed and reported in this manuscript are available at: https://doi.org/10.25392/leicester.data.8299577



Usage metrics