Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Timothy A Shahan


Choice procedures and quantitative models of choice behavior have been used to assess the reinforcing efficacy of drugs. Few studies, however, have used quantitative models of choice for the study of behavior maintained by alcohol. In addition, no studies have assessed the usefulness of quantitative models of concurrent-chains performance for the study of drug-associated cues. The purpose of the present series of experiments was to test the generality of the matching law with alcohol as a reinforcer and extend the use of quantitative models of concurrent-chains performance to behavior maintained by alcohol and alcohol-associated cues. In the first experiment (Chapter 2), rats responded for an alcohol solution on concurrent variable-interval schedules of reinforcement. Across conditions, relative rates of alcohol reinforcement were varied, which allowed for estimates of the parameters of the generalized matching law. Overall, the matching law accounted for changes in rats’ relative allocation of behavior with changes in the relative rate of alcohol delivery. The second and third experiments (Chapter 3) extended the use of the concurrent-chains procedure to rats responding to gain access to stimulus contexts associated with different rates of alcohol delivery. These experiments examined whether initial-link preference would change as a result of changes in the relative rate of alcohol deliveries in the terminal links and whether increases in the initial-link schedules would result in a decrease in preference (i.e., initial-link effect), as predicted by models of concurrent-chains performance. Results showed that choice between two terminal links depended on the different rates of alcohol delivered in each terminal-link stimulus context. When the initial-link schedules were increased, preference for the preferred context decreased. Future studies can benefit from the use of quantitative models of behavior on concurrent and concurrent-chains schedules as a framework for the assessment of potential behavioral and pharmacological treatments of drug abuse and dependence.

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