A mathematical model of reward and aversive nonreward: Its application in over 30 appetitive learning situations


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Abstract

The major assumptions of frustration theory were incorporated in R. A. Rescorla and A. R. Wagner's (1972) model. This resulted in a mathematical model, the Daly Modification (DMOD), that can account for not only trial-by-trial changes and asymptotic values in over 30 simple appetitive learning situations but also the preference for predictable rewards (observing response). The present authors summarize the background, formulation, and assumptions of DMOD. DMOD's analyses of simple learning situations are also reviewed (i.e., continuous reinforcement acquisition, overshadowing, blocking, partial and varied reinforcement acquisition, simple discrimination learning, configural learning and negative patterning, the negative contrast effect, partial reinforcement extinction, elation and reacquisition effects, escape properties of aversive nonreward, and effects of alcohol and amobarbital sodium in simple learning situations). Predictions in more complex choice situations are reported, including the preference for predictable reward (the observing response) and the variables shown to influence the size of the preference (reward magnitude, drive level, proportion of reinforced trials). DMOD's analysis of observing-response acquisition shows that predictable nonreward is less aversive than unpredictable nonreward. Because much empirical support for this analysis is available, the implication is clear: Transform unpredictable situations into predictable ones to reduce the aversiveness of situations in which nonreward or failure is unavoidable. (4 p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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