According to our text, extinction is when a behavior that is usually rewarded is no longer rewarded, such as the rat pressing the lever and no longer receiving food. In theory without a reward the behavior should cease. However, spontaneous recovery is the reappearance of an extinguished conditioned response following a period of rest after extinction has occurred.
Let’s look at a real life example. For two years when John sent a text message to Kathleen, she would respond. This response was a reward for John because he enjoyed talking to Kathleen. When Kathleen broke up with John, he tried to text her, but did not receive a response. His behavior of texting Kathleen went through the procedure of extinction because he did not receive a reward.
But, after a week of not texting Kathleen, John decided to text her again in an attempt to receive a response. Here we can see spontaneous recovery of the old behavior that was once rewarded. In cases of spontaneous recovery, no reward can be given to decrease the likelihood that the response will be repeated, so Kathleen did not reply. After twenty more unanswered text messages, John stopped offering the behavior of texting.