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ERIC Number: EJ981129
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Mar
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 22
ISSN: ISSN-0022-5002
Asymmetry of Reinforcement and Punishment in Human Choice
Rasmussen, Erin B.; Newland, M. Christopher
Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, v89 n2 p157-167 Mar 2008
The hypothesis that a penny lost is valued more highly than a penny earned was tested in human choice. Five participants clicked a computer mouse under concurrent variable-interval schedules of monetary reinforcement. In the no-punishment condition, the schedules arranged monetary gain. In the punishment conditions, a schedule of monetary loss was superimposed on one response alternative. Deviations from generalized matching using the free parameters "c" (sensitivity to reinforcement) and log "k" (bias) were compared in the no-punishment and punishment conditions. The no-punishment conditions yielded values of log "k" that approximated zero for all participants, indicating no bias. In the punishment condition, values of log "k" deviated substantially from zero, revealing a 3-fold bias toward the unpunished alternative. Moreover, the c parameters were substantially smaller in punished conditions. The values for bias and sensitivity under punishment did not change significantly when the measure of net reinforcers (gains minus losses) was applied to the analysis. These results mean that punishment reduced the sensitivity of behavior to reinforcement and biased performance toward the unpunished alternative. We concluded that a single punisher subtracted more value than a single reinforcer added, indicating an asymmetry in the law of effect. (Contains 2 tables and 3 figures.)
Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Available from: Indiana University Department of Psychology. Bloomington, IN 47405-1301. Tel: 812-334-0395; FAX: 812-855-4691; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Alabama