Behavioral Contrast In The Pigeon: A Study Of The Duration Of Key Pecking Maintained On Multiple Schedules Of Reinforcement

Document Type


Publication Date


Published In

Journal Of The Experimental Analysis Of Behavior


Pecks on an operant key were reinforced on either multiple variable-interval variable-interval or multiple variable-interval extinction schedules of reinforcement. The stimuli that signalled the multiple-schedule components were located on a second key (signal key), and a changeover delay prevented reinforcement of signal key-peck—operant key-peck sequences. No behavioral contrast was observed on the operant key, and appreciable responding to the signal key occurred during the variable-interval component of the multiple variable-interval extinction procedure. Peck durations on the signal key were markedly shorter than peck durations on the operant key. Moreover, most responses on the signal key occurred just after the multiple-schedule components changed. These data support an account of behavioral contrast in terms of the summation of pecks that are separately controlled by stimulus-reinforcer and response-reinforcer dependencies, and suggest that the stimulus-reinforcer dependency is responsible primarily for local contrast. In addition, the data suggest that pecks that are controlled by these two dependencies may belong to topographically different classes.