Sensitivity of Conditional-Discrimination Performance to Within-Session Variation of Reinforcer Frequency

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior






Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

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The present experiment developed a methodology for assessing sensitivity of conditional-discrimination performance to within-session variation of reinforcer frequency. Four pigeons responded under a multiple schedule of matching-to-sample components in which the ratio of reinforcers for correct S1 and S2 responses was varied across components within session. Initially, five components, each arranging a different reinforcer-frequency ratio (from 1:9 to 9:1), were presented randomly within a session. Under this condition, sensitivity to reinforcer frequency was low. Sensitivity failed to improve after extended exposure to this condition, and under a condition in which only three reinforcer-frequency ratios were varied within session. In a later condition, three reinforcer-frequency ratios were varied within session, but the reinforcer-frequency ratio in effect was differentially signaled within each component. Under this condition, values of sensitivity were similar to those traditionally obtained when reinforcer-frequency ratios for correct responses are varied across conditions. The effects of signaled vs. unsignaled reinforcer-frequency ratios were replicated in two subsequent conditions. The present procedure could provide a practical alternative to parametric variation of reinforcer frequency across conditions and may be useful in characterizing the effects of a variety of manipulations on steady-state sensitivity to reinforcer frequency.


Originally published by the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Publisher's PDF available through remote link.