Effects of adding a second reinforcement alternative: Implications for Herrnstein's interpretation of r e

Paul L. Soto, Jack J. Mcdowell, Jesse Dallery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Herrnstein's hyperbola describes the relation between response rate and reinforcer rate on variable-interval (VI) schedules. According to Herrnstein's (1970) interpretation, the parameter r e represents the reinforcer rate extraneous to the alternative to which the equation is fitted (the target alternative). The hyperbola is based on an assumption that extraneous reinforcer rate remains constant with changes in reinforcer rate on the target alternative (the constant-r e assumption) and that matching with no bias and perfect sensitivity occurs between response and reinforcer ratios. In the present experiment, 12 rats pressed levers for food on a series of 10 VI schedules arranged on the target alternative. Across conditions, six VI values and extinction were arranged on a second alternative. Reinforcer rate on the second alternative, r 2, negatively covaried with reinforcer rate on the target alternative for five of the six VI values on the second alternative, and significant degrees of bias and undermatching occurred in response ratios. Given covariation of reinforcer rate on the second and target alternatives, the constant r e assumption can be maintained only by assuming that reinforcer rate from unmeasured background sources, r b, covaries with reinforcer rate on the second alternative such that their sum, r e, remains constant. In a single-schedule arrangement, however, r e equals r b and thus r b is assumed to remain constant, forcing a conceptual inconsistency between single- and concurrent-schedule arrangements. Furthermore, although an alternative formulation of the hyperbola can account for variations in bias and sensitivity, the modified equation also is based on the constant-r e assumption and therefore suffers from the same logical problem as the hyperbola when reinforcer rate on the second alternative covaries with reinforcer rate on the target alternative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-225
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Volume84
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2005

Keywords

  • Concurrent VI schedules
  • Extraneous reinforcer rate
  • Herrnstein's hyperbola
  • Lever pressing, rats
  • Matching theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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