Earning And Obtaining Reinforcers Under Concurrent Interval Scheduling

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preference, concurrent schedule, earning reinforcers, optimal foraging theory, generalized matching law, lever press, rats


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Contingencies of reinforcement specify how reinforcers are earned and how they are obtained. Ratio contingencies specify the number of responses that earn a reinforcer, and the response satisfying the ratio requirement obtains the earned reinforcer. Simple interval schedules specify that a certain time earns a reinforcer, which is obtained by the first response after the interval. The earning of reinforcers has been overlooked, perhaps because simple schedules confound the rates of earning reinforcers with the rates of obtaining reinforcers. In concurrent variable-interval schedules, however, spending time at one alternative earns reinforcers not only at that alternative, but at the other alternative as well. Reinforcers earned for delivery at the other alternative are obtained after changing over. Thus the rates of earning reinforcers are not confounded with the rate of obtaining reinforcers, but the rates of earning reinforcers are the same at both alternatives, which masks their possibly differing effects on preference. Two experiments examined the separate effects of earning reinforcers and of obtaining reinforcers on preference by using concurrent interval schedules composed of two pairs of stay and switch schedules (MacDonall, 2000). In both experiments, the generalized matching law, which is based on rates of obtaining reinforcers, described responding only when rates of earning reinforcers were the same at each alternative. An equation that included both the ratio of the rates of obtaining reinforcers and the ratio of the rates of earning reinforcers described the results from all conditions from each experiment.

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APA Citation: MacDonall, J.S. (2005). Earning And Obtaining Reinforcers Under Concurrent Interval Scheduling. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 84(2), 167-183.