Unsignaled Delays of Reinforcement, Relative Time, and Resistance to Change

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Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior






Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

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Two experiments with pigeons examined the effects of unsignaled, nonresetting delays of reinforcement on responding maintained by different reinforcement rates. In Experiment 1, 3-s unsignaled delays were introduced into each component of a multiple variable-interval (VI) 15-s VI 90-s VI 540-s schedule. When considered as a proportion of the preceding immediate reinforcement baseline, responding was decreased similarly for the three multiple-schedule components in both the first six and last six sessions of exposure to the delay. In addition, the relation between response rates and reinforcement rates was altered such that both parameters of the single-response version of the matching law (i.e., k and Re) were decreased. Experiment 2 examined the effects of unsignaled delays ranging from 0.5 s to 8.0 s on responding maintained by a multiple VI 20-s VI 120-s schedule of reinforcement. Response rates in both components increased with brief unsignaled delays and decreased with longer delays. As in Experiment 1, response rates as a proportion of baseline were affected similarly for the two components in both the first six and last six sessions of exposure to the delay. Unlike delays imposed between two stimulus events, the effects of delays between responses and reinforcers do not appear to be attenuated when the average time between reinforcers is longer. In addition, the disruptions produced by unsignaled delays appear to be inconsistent with the general finding that responding maintained by higher rates of reinforcement is less resistant to change.