On The Organization Of Stereotyped Response Sequences

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Animal Learning And Behavior


When pigeons are required to peck each of two keys in any order for reinforcement, stereotyped response sequences develop that are resistant to disruption by extinction, schedules of reinforcement, or contingencies requiring sequence variability. To test the hypothesis that stereotyped response sequences become integrated behavioral units, two experiments introduced within-sequence temporal delays of varying duration. Experiment 1 found that when a delay followed each peck in a sequence, there was substantial disruption of sequence performance that was independent of delay duration. However, such disruption was only temporary. Experiment 2 found that when the location of a delay within a sequence was varied, sequence disruption was a function of when, in a sequence, the delay occurred. Delays that occurred within sequence subunits had large effects, whereas delays that occurred between such subunits had small effects. The data indicate that pigeons can learn to bridge within-sequence delays, and suggest that response sequences are organized into “phrases.”

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