ERIC Number: EJ935107
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Aug
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Preference for the Outcome that Follows a Relatively Aversive Event: Contrast or Delay Reduction?
Singer, Rebecca A.; Zentall, Thomas R.
Learning and Motivation, v42 n3 p255-271 Aug 2011
Pigeons prefer a positive discriminative (S+) stimulus that follows a less preferred event (a large number of required responses, a longer delay, or the absence of food) over a different S+ with a similar history of reinforcement that follows a more preferred event (a single required response, no delay, or food). We proposed that this phenomenon results from contrast (referred to as within-trial contrast) between the less preferred initial event and the signal for reinforcement. Delay reduction theory (Fantino, 1969) can account for these results by proposing that the less preferred initial event lengthens the duration of the trial, thereby allowing the S+ stimulus to occur later in the trial and thus become a better predictor of reinforcement. In the present experiments, we further explored this effect. In Experiment 1, we controlled for trial duration by using a fixed ratio response (30 pecks) as one initial event and the absence of pecking for the same duration as the other initial event (0 pecks). The pigeons showed a reliable preference for the positive stimulus that followed the least preferred initial event. In Experiment 2, we controlled for trial duration by using 30 pecks as one initial event and 1 peck followed by a delay that matched the duration of the preceding 30-peck trial. (Group Time Same). For Group Time Different, there was no delay following the 1-peck initial event. For Group Time Same, preference for the initial event negatively predicted the pigeons' preference for the S+ stimulus that followed, supporting the contrast account. A somewhat greater preference for the discriminative stimulus that followed the least preferred initial event was found for Group Time Different suggesting that in addition to contrast, delay reduction also may play a small role. However, the greater initial-event preference found for Group Time Different suggests that contrast can account for the group difference as well. (Contains 10 figures and 3 tables.)
Descriptors: Reinforcement, Experiments, Animals, Stimuli, Control Groups, Predictor Variables, Responses
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A