Momentary Maximizing and Optimal Foraging Theories of Performance on Concurrent VR Schedules

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Concurrent schedules; Earning reinforcers; Generalized matching law; Momentary maximizing; Optimal foraging theory


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Optimal foraging theory proposes that animals obtain the highest rate of reinforcers for the least effort and momentary maximizing theory proposes that animals make the response that at that instant is most likely to be reinforced. While each theory may account for matching on concurrent schedules, the data supporting each theory are weak. Two experiments assessed these theories by considering concurrent choice as consisting of two pairs of stay and switch schedules. Symmetrical arrangements, which are equivalent to standard concurrent schedules, maintained behavior described by the generalized matching law. Weighted arrangements, in which the programmed rate of earning reinforcers was always greater at one alternative, maintained behavior that was biased towards the weighted alternative, yet the bias was less than that predicted by optimal foraging theory. Asymmetrical arrangements, in which the stay and switch schedules operating at an alternative are the same, maintained behavior that favored one alternative, even though momentary maximizing predicted indifference. The generalized matching law poorly described each rat's pooled data from all conditions but these data were described by an equation based on the stay and switch reinforcers earned per-visit and included elements of optimal foraging and momentary maximizing theories of choice.

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Peer Reviewed



APA Citation: MacDonall, J.S. (2006). Momentary maximizing and optimal foraging theories of performance on concurrent VR schedules. Behavioral Processes, 72(3), 283-299.