Date of Award:

1988

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Edward K. Crossman

Abstract

The present study was conducted to determine whether conjugate magnitude and temporal contingencies were effective in increasing the pre-ratio pause (PRP) duration and to determine the controlling variables that govern such contingencies. It has been reported in the literature that magnitude of reinforcement, if presented contingently, is effective in controlling performance and that inserting intervals of blackout (BO), during which responding does not lead to reinforcement, virtually always leads to control of responding, even though it has not been presented contingently. The conjugate schedules experimentally arranged reinforcement such that the longer the PRP, the longer was the duration of access to reinforcement and/or the shorter was the BO, located either after reinforcement or after the response.

The results of this study demonstrated that the major independent variable which controlled mean PRP duration on the various conjugate reinforcement schedules studied was the delay between the response and reinforcement. The duration of the PRP was not reliably controlled by a contingency which equated PRP duration with reinforcement duration, nor by a contingency which, through imposition of a delay to trial onset, held the local delay to reinforcement constant. Additionally, cycle-to-cycle variation in reinforcement magnitude, whether presented contingently or noncontingently on PRP duration, had no reliable effect on PRP duration when compared to FR 1. The primary effect of variation in the duration of reinforcement was to reduce the variability, not the duration, of the PRP.

The results of the study are briefly discussed in terms of a number of theories. These include: the maximization account (Logan, 1960); the matching law (Herrnstein, 1970); Harzem and Harzem's (1981) theory describing the unconditioned inhibitory stimulus function of reinforcement; behavioral contrast (Reynolds, 1961); and Dews' (1981) account of the importance of a response-reinforcer contiguity relation.

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