Stimulus-Reinforcer Contingencies And Local Behavioral Contrast

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Journal Of The Experimental Analysis Of Behavior


Four pigeons were exposed to a series of multiple schedules of variable-interval reinforcement in which pecks were required on one key (operant key) and components were signalled on a second key (signal key). Four additional pigeons experienced identical conditions, except that a yoking procedure delivered food on variable-time schedules, with no key pecks required. One of the components of the multiple schedule was constant throughout the experiment as a variable-interval (or variable-time) 30-second schedule. Operant-key responding during the constant component was uniform throughout the component, uninfluenced by changes in the duration of the variable component, and only slightly influenced by changes in reinforcement frequency correlated with the variable component. By comparison, signal-key response rate during the constant component was highest at the onset of the component, was higher when the variable component was 60-sec long than when it was 1-sec long, and was higher when no reinforcement occurred in the variable component than when reinforcement was scheduled in the variable component. These characteristics of signal-key pecking matched characteristics of local positive behavioral contrast. These data are taken to support the “additivity theory” of behavioral contrast and to suggest that Pavlovian stimulus-reinforcer relations contribute primarily to the phenomenon of local positive contrast.