Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

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THE epistemologies of parsimony: A review of Ockham's razors: A user's manual by Elliott Sober

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 00:35

Sober analyzes two paradigms of parsimony that have been used successfully in science. These are associated with two interpretations of probability: Bayesian and frequentist. Sober applies these paradigms to problems in biology, psychology, and philosophy. In the chapter on psychology, he argues that objective data consisting of environmental input and two or more concurrent responses could be used to refute empirically the radical behaviorist thesis that probability of learned responses can be accounted for solely on the basis of environmental variables. Sober believes that such data are readily available and offers a thought experiment to illustrate his point. Behavior analysts, however, would want actual experimental data, undoubtedly with animals, before accepting any such refutation. Nonetheless, Sober's philosophical point about the type of experiment that would be capable of refuting this thesis is valid. The behavior analytic program, however, does not depend upon the truth of this thesis.

Categories: Academic Journals

The effects of reinforcer magnitude in the preceding and upcoming ratios on between-ratio pausing in multiple, mixed, and single fixed-ratio schedules

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 00:35

Hens responded under multiple fixed-ratio schedules with equal response requirements and either a 1-s or a 6-s reinforcer. Upcoming reinforcer size was indicated by key color. Components were presented in a quasirandom series so that all four component transitions occurred. Postreinforcement pauses were affected by the upcoming and preceding reinforcer size, with longer pauses after large reinforcers followed by small reinforcers than when followed by large ones, and longer pauses after small reinforcers that were followed by small reinforcers rather than large ones. Pauses increased with fixed-ratio size and the effects of reinforcer size were larger the larger the ratio. When reinforcer size was not signaled—mixed fixed-ratio schedules—pauses were shorter after small than after large reinforcers. Signalling the upcoming reinforcer attenuated the effect of the previous reinforcer size on pause duration when small was followed by small and when either small or large by large, but enhanced the effect when large was followed by small. There was no effect of reinforcer size on pause duration when single fixed-ratio schedules were arranged. The effects of reinforcer size on pauses depends on the size and range of the fixed ratios as well as the exact procedures used in the study.

Categories: Academic Journals

Contextual influence over deriving others' true beliefs using a relational triangulation perspective-taking protocol (RT-PTP-M1)

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 03:36

This paper introduces the relational triangulation framework as a functional contextual expansion of the established Relational Frame Theory (Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001) account of perspective-taking. Initial support for the new framework is provided through data collected with a novel relational triangulation perspective-taking protocol configured in the present study to show contextual influence over deriving true belief in others following the direct training of a “seeing leads to knowing” repertoire (Leslie & Frith, 1988). Eight verbally competent adults were directly trained to make operant discriminations on a first set of target stimuli (i.e., the identities of three distinct figurines) and then directly trained to make contextually controlled deictic pointing responses to a second set of target stimuli (i.e., to the relative location of a target beacon according to the signaled spatial perspective of the self vs. two others). The test for derivation was whether the stimuli that had directly acquired contextual control over deictic perspective-taking during training would spontaneously exert contextual control over figurine discrimination relative to the spatial perspective of the two others. That is, passing the test for derivation required participants to infer that the others would “report what they were seeing” the same way that the self would if the self were in their position, suggesting coordination of the self and others. Seven of the eight participants exhibited the intended derivation of the others' “true beliefs,” confirming successful relational triangulation perspective-taking protocol configuration for this purpose.

Categories: Academic Journals

Concurrent variable-interval variable-ratio schedules in a dynamic choice environment

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 02:27

Most studies of operant choice have focused on presenting subjects with a fixed pair of schedules across many experimental sessions. Using these methods, studies of concurrent variable- interval variable-ratio schedules helped to evaluate theories of choice. More recently, a growing literature has focused on dynamic choice behavior. Those dynamic choice studies have analyzed behavior on a number of different time scales using concurrent variable-interval schedules. Following the dynamic choice approach, the present experiment examined performance on concurrent variable-interval variable-ratio schedules in a rapidly changing environment. Our objectives were to compare performance on concurrent variable-interval variable-ratio schedules with extant data on concurrent variable-interval variable-interval schedules using a dynamic choice procedure and to extend earlier work on concurrent variable-interval variable-ratio schedules. We analyzed performances at different time scales, finding strong similarities between concurrent variable-interval variable-interval and concurrent variable-interval variable- ratio performance within dynamic choice procedures. Time-based measures revealed almost identical performance in the two procedures compared with response-based measures, supporting the view that choice is best understood as time allocation. Performance at the smaller time scale of visits accorded with the tendency seen in earlier research toward developing a pattern of strong preference for and long visits to the richer alternative paired with brief “samples” at the leaner alternative (“fix and sample”).

Categories: Academic Journals

RESURGENCE OF TIME ALLOCATION

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 08:11

The resurgence of time allocation with pigeons was studied in three experiments. In Phase 1 of each experiment, response-independent food occurred with different probabilities in the presence of two different keylights. Each peck on the key changed its color and the food probability in effect. In Phase 2, the food probabilities associated with each keylight were reversed and, in Phase 3, food was discontinued in the presence of either keylight. The food probabilities were .25 and .75, in Experiment 1, and 0.0 and 1.0 in Experiment 2. More time was allocated to the keylight correlated with more probable food in Phases 1 and 2, and in Phase 3 resurgence of time allocation occurred for two of three pigeons in Experiment 1, and for each of four pigeons in Experiment 2. Because time had to be allocated to either of the two alternatives in Experiments 1 and 2, however, it was difficult to characterize the time allocation patterns in Phase 3 as resurgence when changeover responding approached zero. In Experiment 3 this issue was addressed by providing a third alternative uncorrelated with food such that in each phase, after 30 s in the presence of either keylight correlated with food, the third alternative always was reinstated, requiring a response to access either of the two keylights correlated with food. In this experiment, the food probabilities were similar to those in Experiment 1. Resurgence of time allocation occurred for each of three pigeons under this procedure. The results of these experiments suggest that patterns of time allocation resurge similarly to discrete responses and to spatial and temporal patterns of responding.

Categories: Academic Journals

Baseline response rates affect resistance to change

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 22:56

The effect of response rates on resistance to change, measured as resistance to extinction, was examined in two experiments. In Experiment 1, responding in transition from a variable-ratio schedule and its yoked-interval counterpart to extinction was compared with pigeons. Following training on a multiple variable-ratio yoked-interval schedule of reinforcement, in which response rates were higher in the former component, reinforcement was removed from both components during a single extended extinction session. Resistance to extinction in the yoked-interval component was always either greater or equal to that in the variable-ratio component. In Experiment 2, resistance to extinction was compared for two groups of rats that exhibited either high or low response rates when maintained on identical variable-interval schedules. Resistance to extinction was greater for the lower-response-rate group. These results suggest that baseline response rate can contribute to resistance to change. Such effects, however, can only be revealed when baseline response rate and reinforcement rate are disentangled (Experiments 1 and 2) from the more usual circumstance where the two covary. Furthermore, they are more cleanly revealed when the programmed contingencies controlling high and low response rates are identical, as in Experiment 2.

Categories: Academic Journals

A combination of Raspberry Pi and SoftEther VPN for controlling research devices via the Internet

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 03:10

Remote control over devices for experiments may increase the efficiency of operant research and expand the area where behavior can be studied. This article introduces a combination of Raspberry Pi® (Pi) and SoftEther VPN® that allows for such remote control via the Internet. The Pi is a small Linux computer with a great degree of flexibility for customization. Test results indicate that a Pi-based interface meets the requirement for conducting operant research. SoftEther VPN® allows for establishing an extensive private network on the Internet using a single private Wi-Fi router. Step-by-step instructions are provided in the present article for setting up the Pi along with SoftEther VPN®. Their potential for improving the way of conducting research is discussed.

Categories: Academic Journals

The role of temporal intervals on reinforcer accumulation

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 03:26

Animals accumulate reinforcers when they forgo the opportunity to consume available food in favor of acquiring additional food for later consumption. Laboratory research has shown that reinforcer accumulation is facilitated when an interval (either spatial or temporal) separates earning from consuming reinforcers. However, there has been no systematic investigation on the interval separating consuming reinforcers from earning additional reinforcers. This oversight is problematic because this second interval is an integral part of much of the previous research on reinforcer accumulation. The purpose of the current study was to determine the independent contributions of these two temporal intervals on reinforcer accumulation in rats. Each left lever press earned a single food pellet; delivery of the accumulated pellet(s) occurred upon a right lever press. Conditions varied based on the presence of either an intertrial interval (ITI) that separated pellet delivery from the further opportunity to accumulate more pellets, or a delay-to-reinforcement that separated the right lever press from the delivery of the accumulated pellet(s). Delay and ITI values of 0, 5, 10 and 20 s were investigated. The delay-to-reinforcement conditions produced greater accumulation relative to the ITI conditions, despite accumulation increasing the density of reinforcement more substantially in the ITI conditions. This finding suggests that the temporal separation between reinforcer accumulation and subsequent delivery and consumption was a more critical variable in controlling reinforcer accumulation.

Categories: Academic Journals

The transfer of Crel contextual control (same, opposite, less than, more than) through equivalence relations

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 04:20

According to Relational Frame Theory (RFT) Crel denotes a contextual stimulus that controls a particular type of relational response (sameness, opposition, comparative, temporal, hierarchical etc.) in a given situation. Previous studies suggest that contextual functions may be indirectly acquired via transfer of function. The present study investigated the transfer of Crel contextual control through equivalence relations. Experiment 1 evaluated the transfer of Crel contextual functions for relational responses based on sameness and opposition. Experiment 2 extended these findings by evaluating transfer of function using comparative Crel stimuli. Both experiments followed a similar sequence of phases. First, abstract forms were established as Crel stimuli via multiple exemplar training (Phase 1). The contextual cues were then applied to establish arbitrary relations among nonsense words and to test derived relations (Phase 2). After that, equivalence relations involving the original Crel stimuli and other abstract forms were trained and tested (Phase 3). Transfer of function was evaluated by replacing the directly established Crel stimuli with their equivalent stimuli in the former experimental tasks (Phases 1 and 2). Results from both experiments suggest that Crel contextual control may be extended via equivalence relations, allowing other arbitrarily related stimuli to indirectly acquire Crel functions and regulate behavior by evoking appropriate relational responses in the presence of both previously known and novel stimuli.

Categories: Academic Journals

Symmetry and stimulus class formation in humans: Control by temporal location in a successive matching task

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 00:05

Symmetry refers to the observation that subjects will derive B-A (e.g., in the presence of B, select A) after being trained on A-B (e.g., in the presence of A, select B). Whereas symmetry is readily shown in humans, it has been difficult to demonstrate in nonhuman animals. This difficulty, at least in pigeons, may result from responding to specific stimulus properties that change when sample and comparison stimuli switch roles between training and testing. In three experiments with humans, we investigated to what extent human responding is influenced by the temporal location of stimuli using a successive matching-to-sample procedure. Our results indicate that temporal location does not spontaneously control responding in humans, although it does in pigeons. Therefore, the number of functional stimuli that humans respond to in this procedure may be half of the number of functional stimuli that the pigeons respond to. In a fourth experiment, we tested this assumption by doubling the number of functional stimuli controlling responding in human participants in an attempt to make the test more comparable to symmetry tests with pigeons. Here, we found that humans responded according to indirect class formation in the same manner as pigeons do. In sum, our results indicate that functional symmetry is readily observed in humans, even in cases where the temporal features of the stimuli prevent functional symmetry in pigeons. We argue that this difference in behavior between the two species does not necessarily reflect a difference in capacity to show functional symmetry between both species, but could also reflect a difference in the functional stimuli each species responds to.

Categories: Academic Journals

Delay discounting as impaired valuation: Delayed rewards in an animal obesity model

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 03:22

Obesity is a major public health problem, which, like many forms of addiction, is associated with an elevated tendency to choose smaller immediate rather than larger delayed rewards, a response pattern often referred to as excessive delay discounting. Although some accounts of delay discounting conceptualize this process as impulsivity (placing the emphasis on overvaluing the smaller immediate reward), others have conceptualized delay discounting as an executive function (placing the emphasis on delayed rewards failing to retain their value). The present experiments used a popular animal model of obesity that has been shown to discount delayed rewards at elevated rates (i.e., obese Zucker rats) to test two predictions that conceptualize delay discounting as executive function. In the first experiment, acquisition of lever pressing with delayed rewards was compared in obese versus lean Zucker rats. Contrary to predictions based on delay discounting as executive function, obese Zucker rats learned to press the lever more quickly than controls. In the second experiment, progressive ratio breakpoints (a measure of reward efficacy) with delayed rewards were compared in obese versus lean Zucker rats. Contrary to the notion that obese rats fail to value delayed rewards, the obese Zucker rats' breakpoints were (at least) as high as those of the lean Zucker rats.

Categories: Academic Journals

The effects of fixed-interval schedules on variability of pigeons' pecking location

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 03:22

Many studies that have investigated performance under reinforcement schedules have measured response rate or interresponse time, which reflect the temporal dimension of responding; however, relatively few studies have examined other dimensions. The present study investigated the effects of fixed-interval schedules on the location of pigeons' pecking response. A circular response area 22.4 cm in diameter was used so that the pecking responses were effective over a wide range. Pigeons were exposed to a fixed-interval schedule whose requirement was systematically varied between conditions. Response location moved closer to the location of the last reinforced response as time elapsed in each trial. Additionally, as the fixed-interval duration requirement increased, response locations shifted to the border of the response area and the variability of response locations increased. These results suggest that fixed-interval schedules systematically control response location.

Categories: Academic Journals

Dogs don't always prefer their owners and can quickly form strong preferences for certain strangers over others.

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 06:10

The unique relationship between dog and owner has been demonstrated in several experimental procedures, including tests in which dogs are left alone or with a stranger, tests of dogs’ appeasement or social approach when petted by their owner or a stranger, and their ability to learn when taught by their owner or a stranger. In all cases, dogs responded differently to their owner, which has been referred to as a specific attachment, and likely a product of a prolonged history of reinforcement. In the current study, we used a concurrent choice paradigm in which dogs could interact with two people, both of whom provided the same petting interaction, to test whether owned dogs would prefer their owner over a stranger and whether the familiarity of the testing context would influence preference. We also investigated whether shelter and owned dogs tested with two strangers would show a preference between strangers and whether that preference would be similar in magnitude to any preference between the owner and stranger. Owned dogs preferred to interact with their owners when in an unfamiliar context, but allocated more time to the stranger in a familiar context. Both shelter and owned dogs tested with two strangers showed a magnitude of preference for one stranger over the other similar to owned dogs’ preference for owners in an unfamiliar context. These results parallel what has been found in strange situation tests with owned dogs tested with their owners, but the strength of preference shown for one of two strangers indicates dogs can form a preference for one person quickly.

Categories: Academic Journals

Reinforcement value and fixed-interval performance

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 03:42

The concept of reinforcement value summarizes the effect of different variables, such as reinforcement delay, reinforcement magnitude, and deprivation level, on behavior. In the present set of experiments, we evaluated the effect of reinforcement devaluation on performance under FI schedules. The literature on timing and reinforcement value suggests that devaluation generates longer expected times to reinforcement than the same intervals trained under control conditions. We devalued reinforcement with delay in Experiments 1A, 1B, and 2, and diminished deprivation in Experiments 3A and 3B. Devaluation reduced response rates, increased the number of one-response intervals, and lengthened postreinforcement pauses, but had inconsistent effects on other timing measures such as quarter life and breakpoint. The results of delayed reinforcement and diminished deprivation manipulations are well summarized as reinforcement devaluation effects. These results suggest that devaluation may reduce stimulus control. In addition, we argue that the process by which delayed reinforcement affects behavior might also explain some effects observed in other devaluation procedures through the concept of reinforcement value.

Categories: Academic Journals

Stimuli previously associated with reinforcement mitigate resurgence

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 03:41

Resurgence refers to the recurrence of an extinguished target behavior following subsequent suspension of alternative reinforcement. Delivery of reinforcers during extinction of alternative behavior has been shown to mitigate resurgence. The present experiment aimed to determine whether delivering stimuli associated with reinforcers during resurgence testing similarly mitigates resurgence. Three groups of rats pressed target levers for food according to variable-interval 15-s schedules during Phase 1. In Phase 2, lever pressing was extinguished, and an alternative nose-poke response produced alternative reinforcement according to a variable-interval 15-s schedule. Food reinforcement was always associated with illumination of the food aperture and an audible click from the pellet dispenser during Phases 1 and 2. Phase 3 treatments differed between groups. For one group, nose poking continued to produce food and food-correlated stimuli. Both of these consequences were suspended for a second group. Finally, nose poking produced food-correlated stimuli but not food for a third group. Target-lever pressing resurged in the group that received no consequences and in the group that received only food-correlated stimuli for nose poking. Resurgence, however, was smaller for the group that received food-correlated stimuli than for the group that received no consequences for nose poking. Target-lever pressing did not increase between phases in the group that continued to receive food and associated stimuli. Thus, delivery of stimuli associated with food reinforcement after suspension of food reduced but did not eliminate resurgence of extinguished lever pressing. These findings contribute to potential methodologies for preventing relapse of extinguished problem behavior in clinical settings.

Categories: Academic Journals

Training intraverbal bidirectional naming to establish generalized equivalence class performances

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 03:41

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of tact and intraverbal training on the establishment of generalized equivalence classes. Seventeen college students were exposed to tact training, listener testing, and intraverbal training (A'B’ and B'C’) in two experiments. Visual–visual matching-to-sample and intraverbal tests measured performances consistent with the formation of equivalence classes. Generalization was assessed with four novel sets of stimuli. In the second experiment, matching-to-sample tests for baseline relations (AB, BC) were eliminated to control for the possibility that equivalence classes were developed through exposure to these visual stimulus–stimulus relations. Thirteen of 17 participants passed all matching-to-sample and intraverbal posttests. Results suggest that when trained and emergent intraverbal relations were not maintained or were faulty, participants did not respond correctly during matching-to-sample posttests.

Categories: Academic Journals

Response–reinforcer dependency and resistance to change

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 07:46

The effects of the response–reinforcer dependency on resistance to change were studied in three experiments with rats. In Experiment 1, lever pressing produced reinforcers at similar rates after variable interreinforcer intervals in each component of a two-component multiple schedule. Across conditions, in the fixed component, all reinforcers were response-dependent; in the alternative component, the percentage of response-dependent reinforcers was 100, 50 (i.e., 50% response-dependent and 50% response-independent) or 10% (i.e., 10% response-dependent and 90% response-independent). Resistance to extinction was greater in the alternative than in the fixed component when the dependency in the former was 10%, but was similar between components when this dependency was 100 or 50%. In Experiment 2, a three-component multiple schedule was used. The dependency was 100% in one component and 10% in the other two. The 10% components differed on how reinforcers were programmed. In one component, as in Experiment 1, a reinforcer had to be collected before the scheduling of other response-dependent or independent reinforcers. In the other component, response-dependent and -independent reinforcers were programmed by superimposing a variable-time schedule on an independent variable-interval schedule. Regardless of the procedure used to program the dependency, resistance to extinction was greater in the 10% components than in the 100% component. These results were replicated in Experiment 3 in which, instead of extinction, VT schedules replaced the baseline schedules in each multiple-schedule component during the test. We argue that the relative change in dependency from Baseline to Test, which is greater when baseline dependencies are high rather than low, could account for the differential resistance to change in the present experiments. The inconsistencies in results across the present and previous experiments suggest that the effects of dependency on resistance to change are not well understood. Additional systematic analyses are important to further understand the effects of the response–reinforcer relation on resistance to change and to the development of a more comprehensive theory of behavioral persistence.

Categories: Academic Journals

Are behaviors at one alternative in concurrent schedules independent of contingencies at the other alternative?

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 06:30

Some have reported changing the schedule at one alternative of a concurrent schedule changed responding at the other alternative (Catania, 1969), which seems odd because no contingencies were changed there. When concurrent schedules are programmed using two schedules, one associated with each alternative that operate continuously, changing the schedule at one alternative also changes the switch schedule at the other alternative. Thus, changes in responding at the constant alternative could be due to the change in the switch schedule. To assess this possibility, six rats were exposed to a series of conditions that alternated between pairs of interval schedules at both alternatives and a pair of interval schedules at one, constant, alternative and a pair of extinction schedules at the other alternative. Comparing run lengths, visit durations and response rates at the constant alternative in the alternating conditions did not show consistent increases and decreases when a strict criterion for changes was used. Using a less stringent definition (any change in mean values) showed changes. The stay/switch analysis suggests it may be inaccurate to apply behavioral contrast to procedures that change from concurrent variable-interval variable-interval schedules to concurrent variable-interval extinction schedules because the contingencies in neither alternative are constant.

Categories: Academic Journals

Searching for the variables that control human rule-governed “insensitivity”

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 22:55

Verbal rules or instructions often exert obvious and meaningful control over human behavior. Sometimes instructions benefit the individual by enabling faster acquisition of a skill or by obviating an aversive consequence. However, research has also suggested a clear disadvantage: “insensitivity” to changing underlying contingencies. The two experiments described here investigated the variables that control initial rule-following behavior and rule-following insensitivity. When the initial rule was inaccurate, behavior was consistent with the rule for approximately half of participants and all participants' behavior was mostly insensitive to changing contingencies. When the initial rule was accurate, behavior of all participants was consistent with it and behavior for nearly all participants was insensitive to changes in underlying contingencies. These findings have implications for how best to establish and maintain rule-following behavior in applied settings when deviant behavior would be more reinforcing to the individual.

Categories: Academic Journals

Generalization of the disruptive effects of alternative stimuli when combined with target stimuli in extinction

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 21:45

Differential-reinforcement treatments reduce target problem behavior in the short term but at the expense of making it more persistent long term. Basic and translational research based on behavioral momentum theory suggests that combining features of stimuli governing an alternative response with the stimuli governing target responding could make target responding less persistent. However, changes to the alternative stimulus context when combining alternative and target stimuli could diminish the effectiveness of the alternative stimulus in reducing target responding. In an animal model with pigeons, the present study reinforced responding in the presence of target and alternative stimuli. When combining the alternative and target stimuli during extinction, we altered the alternative stimulus through changes in line orientation. We found that (1) combining alternative and target stimuli in extinction more effectively decreased target responding than presenting the target stimulus on its own; (2) combining these stimuli was more effective in decreasing target responding trained with lower reinforcement rates; and (3) changing the alternative stimulus reduced its effectiveness when it was combined with the target stimulus. Therefore, changing alternative stimuli (e.g., therapist, clinical setting) during behavioral treatments that combine alternative and target stimuli could reduce the effectiveness of those treatments in disrupting problem behavior.

Categories: Academic Journals

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