Two Different Kinds Of Key Peck In The Pigeon: Some Properties Of Responses Maintained By Negative And Positive Response-Reinforcer Contingencies

Barry Schwartz, Swarthmore College
D. R. Williams


Pigeons emitted almost exclusively short-duration key pecks (shorter than 20 msec) when on negative automaintenance procedures, in which pecks prevented reinforcement. Peck durations under fixed-interval and fixed-ratio reinforcement schedules were generally two to five times longer than pecks under a negative automaintenance schedule. However, initial key pecks were of short duration, independent of procedure. The frequency of short-duration pecks was insensitive to differential reinforcement, while the frequency of long-duration pecks was sensitive to differential reinforcement. It is proposed that short-duration pecks arise from the pigeon's normal feeding pattern and are directly enhanced by food presentation, while long-duration pecks are controlled by the contingent effects of food presentation. The implications of the existence of two classes of pecks for the functional definition of operants and the separation of phylogenetic and ontogenetic sources of control of key pecking are discussed.