Tests of Behavioral-Economic Assessments of Relative Reinforcer Efficacy II: Economic Complements

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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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This experiment was conducted to test the predictions of two behavioral-economic approaches to quantifying relative reinforcer efficacy. The normalized demand analysis suggests that characteristics of averaged normalized demand curves may be used to predict progressive-ratio breakpoints and peak responding. By contrast, the demand analysis holds that traditional measures of relative reinforcer efficacy (breakpoint, peak response rate, and choice) correspond to specific characteristics of non-normalized demand curves. The accuracy of these predictions was evaluated in rats’ responding for food or water: two reinforcers known to function as complements. Consistent with the first approach, predicted peak normalized response output values obtained under single-schedule conditions ordinally predicted progressive-ratio breakpoints and peak response rates obtained in a separate condition. Combining the minimum-needs hypothesis with the normalized demand analysis helped to interpret prior findings, but was less useful in predicting choice between food and water—two strongly complementary reinforcers. Predictions of the demand analysis had mixed success. Peak response outputs predicted from the non-normalized water demand curves were significantly correlated with obtained peak responding for water in a separate condition, but none of the remaining three predicted correlations was statistically significant. The demand analysis fared better in predicting choice—relative consumption of food and water under single schedules of reinforcement predicted preference under concurrent schedules significantly better than chance.


Originally published by the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Publisher's PDF available through remote link.
Note: Greg Madden was affiliated with the University of Kansas at time of publication.