Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Edward K. Crossman


Edward K. Crossman


Carl D. Cheney


J. Grayson Osborne


Gerald Adams


Clive Arave


A series of experiments were conducted with pigeons to investigate the variables responsible for differential postreinforcement pause (PRP) durations found on ratio schedules. In Experiment I, behavior on fixed-ratio (FR) and variable-ratio (VR) schedules were compared to behavior evoked by two interpolated schedules. The addition of a single FR 1 component to the FR 50 baseline schedule reduced the overall PRP to a duration comparable to that found on the VR 50 schedule. The addition of both an FR 1 and an FR 215 component to an FR 50 baseline reduced PRP and IRT durations below those on a VR 50 schedule.

Experiments II and III were designed to isolate the conditions under which the smallest ratio component exerts predominant control over PRP duration. The results of Experiment II demonstrated that a local increase in reinforcement density was a necessary, but not sufficient condition for reducing median PRP duration. That is, exposure to a response-independnt increase in reinforcement density attenuated, but did not eliminate the reduction in median PRP duration associated with the interpolated FR 1 component. The results of Experiment III demonstrated that neither random session location of the FR 1 component nor unsignaled presentation of the FR 1 component were necessary conditions for reducing the duration of the PRP. That is, a brief, response-dependent increase in reinforcement density was a sufficient condition for reducing PRP duration given a subject free from historical exposure to response-independent reinforcement.

It was concluded that the difference in PRP duration produced by two, comparably-sized, fixed- and variable-ratio schedules is a function of the size of the smallest ratio component present in the reinforcement schedule. More generally, the highest local density of reinforcement controls the overall duration of the PRP on a response-dependent, ratio schedule.



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