Extended Pausing by Humans on Multiple Fixed-Ratio Schedules with Varied Reinforcer Magnitude and Response Requirements

  • Williams D
  • Saunders K
  • Perone M
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We conducted three experiments to reproduce and extend Perone and Courtney's (1992) study of pausing at the beginning of fixed-ratio schedules. In a multiple schedule with unequal amounts of food across two components, they found that pigeons paused longest in the component associated with the smaller amount of food (the lean component), but only when it was preceded by the rich component. In our studies, adults with mild intellectual disabilities responded on a touch-sensitive computer monitor to produce money. In Experiment 1, the multiple-schedule components differed in both response requirement and reinforcer magnitude (i.e., the rich component required fewer responses and produced more money than the lean component). Effects shown with pigeons were reproduced in all 7 participants. In Experiment 2, we removed the stimuli that signaled the two schedule components, and participants' extended pausing was eliminated. In Experiment 3, to assess sensitivity to reinforcer magnitude versus fixed-ratio size, we presented conditions with equal ratio sizes but disparate magnitudes and conditions with equal magnitudes but disparate ratio sizes. Sensitivity to these manipulations was idiosyncratic. The present experiments obtained schedule control in verbally competent human participants and, despite procedural differences, we reproduced findings with animal participants. We showed that pausing is jointly determined by past conditions of reinforcement and stimuli correlated with upcoming conditions.

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  • Dean C Williams

  • Kathryn J Saunders

  • Michael Perone

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