Kinetics of Matching

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Rats responded on concurrent variable interval schedules of brain stimulation reward in 2-trial sessions. Between trials, there was a 16-fold reversal in the relative rate of reward. In successive, narrow time windows, the authors compared the ratio of the times spent on the 2 levers to the ratio of the rewards received. Time-allocation ratios tracked wide, random fluctuations in the reward ratio. The adjustment to the midsession reversal in relative rate of reward was largely completed within 1 interreward interval on the leaner schedule. Both results were unaffected by a 16-fold change in the combined rates of reward. The large, rapid, scale-invariant shifts in time-allocation ratios that underlie matching behavior imply that the subjective relative rate of reward can be determined by a very few of the most recent interreward intervals and that this estimate can directly determine the ratio of the expected stay durations.

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