Three Predictions of the Economic Concept of Unit Price in a Choice Context
Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Economic theory makes three predictions about consumption and response output in a choice situation: (a) When plotted on logarithmic coordinates, total consumption (i.e., summed across concurrent sources of reinforcement) should be a positively decelerating function, and total response output should be a bitonic function of unit price increases; (b) total consumption and response output should be determined by the value of the unit price ratio, independent of its cost and benefit components; and (c) when a reinforcer is available at the same unit price across all sources of reinforcement, consumption should be equal between these sources. These predictions were assessed in human cigarette smokers who earned cigarette puffs in a two-choice situation at a range of unit prices. In some sessions, smokers chose between different amounts of puffs, both available at identical unit prices. Individual subjects’ data supported the first two predictions but failed to support the third. Instead, at low unit prices, the relatively larger reinforcer (and larger response requirement) was preferred, whereas at high unit prices, the smaller reinforcer (and smaller response requirement) was preferred. An expansion of unit price is proposed in which handling costs and the discounted value of reinforcers available according to ratio schedules are incorporated.
Madden, G. J., Bickel, W. K., & Jacobs, E. A. (2000). Three predictions of the economic concept of unit price in a choice context. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 73, 45-64.