Resistance to Change of Responding Maintained by Unsignaled Delays to Reinforcement: A Response-Bout Analysis

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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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Previous experiments have shown that unsignaled delayed reinforcement decreases response rates and resistance to change. However, the effects of different delays to reinforcement on underlying response structure have not been investigated in conjunction with tests of resistance to change. In the present experiment, pigeons responded on a three-component multiple variable-interval schedule for food presented immediately, following brief (0.5 s), or following long (3 s) unsignaled delays of food reinforcement. Baseline response rates were lowest in the component with the longest delay; they were about equal with immediate and briefly delayed reinforcers. Resistance to disruption by presession feeding, response-independent food during the intercomponent interval, and extinction was slightly but consistently lower as delays increased. Because log survivor functions of interresponse times (IRTs) deviated from simple modes of bout initiations and within-bout responding, an IRT-cutoff method was used to examine underlying response structure. These analyses suggested that baseline rates of initiating bouts of responding decreased as scheduled delays increased, and within-bout response rates tended to be lower in the component with immediate reinforcers. The number of responses per bout was not reliably affected by reinforcer delay, but tended to be highest with brief delays when total response rates were higher in that component. Consistent with previous findings, resistance to change of overall response rate was highly correlated with resistance to change of bout-initiation rates but not with within-bout responding. These results suggest that unsignaled delays to reinforcement affect resistance to change through changes in the probability of initiating a response bout rather than through changes in the underlying response structure.