Effects of Alternative Reinforcement on Human Behavior: The Source Does Matter

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Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior






Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

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Competing theories regarding the effects of delivering periodic response-independent reinforcement (more accurately, response-independent points exchanged for money) on a baseline rate of behavior were evaluated in human subjects. Contiguity theory holds that these events decrease target responding because incompatible behavior is adventitiously strengthened when the point deliveries follow target behavior closely in time. Matching theory holds that response-independent points, like any other alternative reinforcer, should reduce target responding. On this view, temporal contiguity between target responding and response-independent point delivery is unimportant. In our experiment, four different responses (moving a joystick in four different directions) were reinforced with points exchangeable for money according to four independent variable-interval schedules. Different schedules of point delivery were then superimposed on these baselines. When all superimposed point deliveries occurred immediately after one of the four responses (the target response), time allocated to target responding increased. When the superimposed point deliveries could be delivered at any time, time allocated to target responding declined and other behavior increased. When superimposed points could never immediately follow target responses, time allocated to target responding decreased further and other behavior or pausing predominated. The findings underscore the contribution of temporal contiguity in the effects of response-independent deliveries of food, money, points, etc.


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 Wisconsin - Eau Claire at time of publication.