Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

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Updated: 1 hour 19 min ago

How do reinforcers affect choice? Preference pulses after responses and reinforcers

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 19:50

In concurrent schedules, reinforcers are often followed by a brief period of heightened preference for the just-productive alternative. Such ‘preference pulses’ may reflect local effects of reinforcers on choice. However, similar pulses may occur after nonreinforced responses, suggesting that pulses after reinforcers are partly unrelated to reinforcer effects. McLean, Grace, Pitts, and Hughes (2014) recommended subtracting preference pulses after responses from preference pulses after reinforcers, to construct residual pulses that represent only reinforcer effects. Thus, a reanalysis of existing choice data is necessary to determine whether changes in choice after reinforcers in previous experiments were actually related to reinforcers. In the present paper, we reanalyzed data from choice experiments in which reinforcers served different functions. We compared local choice, mean visit length, and visit-length distributions after reinforcers and after nonreinforced responses. Our reanalysis demonstrated the utility of McLean et al.'s preference-pulse correction for determining the effects of reinforcers on choice. However, visit analyses revealed that residual pulses may not accurately represent reinforcer effects, and reinforcer effects were clearer in visit analyses than in local-choice analyses. The best way to determine the effects of reinforcers on choice may be to conduct visit analyses in addition to local-choice analyses.

Categories: Academic Journals

Failure to find a distance effect in pigeon choice

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 01:02

Primates take longer to choose between alternatives with smaller differences in value. This effect—a particular instance of the distance effect in symbolic comparisons—has not been replicated in birds. Instead, birds appear to respond independently to each alternative, such that the latency to choose depends primarily on the alternative of highest value. Three experiments tested for the distance effect in pigeons under conditions not previously considered. Experiment 1 presented pigeons with forced- and binary free-choice trials, where each alternative was one of three possible delays to reinforcement (4, 8, and 16 s). Pigeons were exposed to the choice stimuli for different amounts of time and with different sample response requirements prior to the choice response. Experiment 2 added a fourth (0-s delay) alternative. Experiment 3 substituted the 16-s delay with a second 4-s delay. In all experiments, pigeons systematically chose the shortest delay to reinforcement. Latency to choose the 4-s delay did not vary when choosing against the 8-s or 16-s delay, regardless of whether choice stimuli were exposed for the duration of nine pecks (Experiment 1), or whether a 0-s delay alternative was sometimes present (Experiment 2). Latency to choose the preferred of two identical alternatives (4-s vs. 4-s) was shorter than the latency to choose between different alternatives (4-s vs. 8-s; Experiment 3); this is the opposite of a distance effect. These results show no evidence of a distance effect in pigeon choice, consistent with the hypothesis that pigeons respond independently to each choice alternative.

Categories: Academic Journals

Choice among two and three alternatives

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 01:37

Although choice between two alternatives has been widely researched, fewer studies have examined choice across multiple (more than two) alternatives. Past models of choice behavior predict that the number of alternatives should not affect relative response allocation, but more recent research has found violations of this principle. Five pigeons were presented with three concurrently scheduled alternatives. Relative reinforcement rates across these alternatives were assigned 9:3:1. In some conditions three keys were available; in others, only two keys were available. The number of available alternatives did not affect relative response rates for pairs of alternatives; there were no significant differences in behavior between the two and three key conditions. For two birds in the three-alternative conditions and three birds in the two-alternative conditions, preference was more extreme for the pair of alternatives with the lower overall pairwise reinforcer rate (3:1) than the pair with higher overall reinforcer rate (9:3). However, when responding during the changeover was removed three birds showed the opposite pattern in the three-alternative conditions; preference was more extreme for the pair of alternatives with the higher overall reinforcer rate. These findings differ from past research and do not support established theories of choice behavior.

Categories: Academic Journals

Selection by consequences, behavioral evolution, and the price equation

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 01:37

Price’s equation describes evolution across time in simple mathematical terms. Although it is not a theory, but a derived identity, it is useful as an analytical tool. It affords lucid descriptions of genetic evolution, cultural evolution, and behavioral evolution (often called “selection by consequences”) at different levels (e.g., individual vs. group) and at different time scales (local and extended). The importance of the Price equation for behavior analysis lies in its ability to precisely restate selection by consequences, thereby restating, or even replacing, the law of effect. Beyond this, the equation may be useful whenever one regards ontogenetic behavioral change as evolutionary change, because it describes evolutionary change in abstract, general terms. As an analytical tool, the behavioral Price equation is an excellent aid in understanding how behavior changes within organisms’ lifetimes. For example, it illuminates evolution of response rate, analyses of choice in concurrent schedules, negative contingencies, and dilemmas of self-control.

Categories: Academic Journals

The discounting model selector: Statistical software for delay discounting applications

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 05:05

Original, open-source computer software was developed and validated against established delay discounting methods in the literature. The software executed approximate Bayesian model selection methods from user-supplied temporal discounting data and computed the effective delay 50 (ED50) from the best performing model. Software was custom-designed to enable behavior analysts to conveniently apply recent statistical methods to temporal discounting data with the aid of a graphical user interface (GUI). The results of independent validation of the approximate Bayesian model selection methods indicated that the program provided results identical to that of the original source paper and its methods. Monte Carlo simulation (n = 50,000) confirmed that true model was selected most often in each setting. Simulation code and data for this study were posted to an online repository for use by other researchers. The model selection approach was applied to three existing delay discounting data sets from the literature in addition to the data from the source paper. Comparisons of model selected ED50 were consistent with traditional indices of discounting. Conceptual issues related to the development and use of computer software by behavior analysts and the opportunities afforded by free and open-sourced software are discussed and a review of possible expansions of this software are provided.

Categories: Academic Journals

The effects of 100 dB 1-kHz and 22-kHz tones as punishers on lever pressing in rats

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 06:38

Aversive control is an important yet understudied process of learning. One reason aversive control may be relatively understudied is ethical concerns about painful stimuli (e.g., electric shock). High decibel broad-band noise and 22-kHz vocalizations both demonstrably affect rodent behavior while not necessarily being painful. The goal of this study was to determine if 100-dB 22-kHz-pure tones were differentially more effective in reducing operant response rates in rats. We examined whether 22-kHz pure tones would function as aversive stimuli, specifically as positive punishers. The effects of response-dependent as well as continuously presented 22-kHz and 1-kHz tones on rate of response maintained by variable interval 30-s food deliveries were assessed across several conditions. We found that response rates were lower when tones were presented response dependently than when tones were presented continuously throughout a session. We also found that the lower response rates obtained with response-dependent 22-kHz tones were not significantly different from response rates obtained with response-dependent 1-kHz tones. The primary conclusion of this experiment is that both 1-kHz and 22-kHz tones functioned as punishers, but that the 22-kHz tones were not differentially more effective in reducing response rate.

Categories: Academic Journals

Noncontingent reinforcement competes with response performance

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 06:33

Noncontingent reinforcement is a commonly used procedure to decrease levels of problem behavior. Goals of this intervention are to decrease motivation, responding, and the functional relation between behavior and consequences, but it could also possibly compete with performance of alternative desirable responses. In the current study, we assessed the effects of noncontingent reinforcement arranged from 0% to 100% of sessions on performance of alternative responding across two experiments. Experiment 1 assessed manding (i.e., requests) maintained by attention and tangibles with a child with developmental disabilities and Experiment 2 assessed keypecking maintained by food with six pigeons. We extended previous research by (a) showing that noncontingent reinforcement competes with both the acquisition and maintenance (performance) of an alternative response, (b) extending the generality of the findings across nonhuman and human participants, and (c) eliminating influence of sequence effects through random manipulations of noncontingent value in pigeons. Overall, greater amounts of noncontingent reinforcement competed with both acquisition and maintenance of alternative responding.

Categories: Academic Journals

Arbitrarily applicable spatial relational responding

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 00:36

Spatial reasoning, where novel spatial relationships are inferred based on trained relationships, can be conceptualized as arbitrarily applicable spatial relational responding. Here, we conducted two experiments to develop and validate, for the first time, a laboratory procedure to establish arbitrarily applicable spatial relational responding in adult humans. In Experiment 1, participants were trained on nonarbitrary spatial relational tasks designed to establish contextual cues for left of, right of, above, and below. Contextual cues were then used to train a series of arbitrary spatial relations involving four abstract shapes. Following training in a subset of arbitrary relations (A is left of B, B is above C, C is right of D), subsequent testing examined the emergence of untrained spatial relations (B is right of A, C is below B, D is left of C, D is below A and A is above D). When absent in initial tests, spatial relational responding was facilitated by a remedial training procedure incorporating nonarbitrary relational guidance. Participants showed patterns of spatial relational responding consistent with test relations. In Experiment 2, a variant reversal design yielded predictable, reversed spatial relational responses. Overall, the present procedures represent the first empirical demonstration of arbitrarily applicable spatial relational responding and thus, arguably, the first functional analytic model of spatial reasoning.

Categories: Academic Journals

Evalyn Finn Segal, in memoriam

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 00:36
Categories: Academic Journals

Allocation of speech in conversation

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 00:36

In a replication and extension of Conger and Killeen's (1974) widely cited demonstration of matching in conversations, we evaluated nine participants’ allocation of speech and gaze to two conversational partners. German speakers participated in two 90-min sessions in which confederates uttered approval on independent variable-interval schedules. In one of the sessions, confederates uttered approval contingent upon and contiguous with eye contact whereas in the other session approval was uttered independent of the participant's gaze. Several measures of participants’ verbal behavior were taken, including relative duration and rate of speech and gaze. These were compared to confederates’ relative rate of approval and relative duration and rate of talk. The generalized matching equation was fitted to the various relations between participants’ behavior and confederates’ behavior. Conger and Killeen's results were not replicated; participants’ response allocation did not show a systematic relation to the confederates’ relative rate of approval. The strongest relations were to overall talk, rather than approval. In both conditions, the participant talked more to the confederate who talked less—inverse or antimatching. Participants’ gaze showed the same inverse relation to the confederates’ talk. Requiring gaze to be directed toward a confederate for delivery of approval made no difference in the results. The absence of a difference combined with prior research suggests that matching or antimatching in conversations is more likely due to induction than to reinforcement.

Categories: Academic Journals

2016 Guest Reviewer List

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 00:36
Categories: Academic Journals

Behavior analysis and neuroscience: Complementary disciplines

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 04:50

Behavior analysis and neuroscience are disciplines in their own right but are united in that both are subfields of a common overarching field—biology. What most fundamentally unites these disciplines is a shared commitment to selectionism, the Darwinian mode of explanation. In selectionism, the order and complexity observed in nature are seen as the cumulative products of selection processes acting over time on a population of variants—favoring some and disfavoring others—with the affected variants contributing to the population on which future selections operate. In the case of behavior analysis, the central selection process is selection by reinforcement; in neuroscience it is natural selection. The two selection processes are inter-related in that selection by reinforcement is itself the product of natural selection. The present paper illustrates the complementary nature of behavior analysis and neuroscience through considering their joint contributions to three central problem areas: reinforcement—including conditioned reinforcement, stimulus control—including equivalence classes, and memory—including reminding and remembering.

Categories: Academic Journals