Does the Context of Reinforcement Affect Resistance to Change?

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Abstract

Eight pigeons were trained on multiple schedules of reinforcement where pairs of components alternated in blocks on different keys to define 2 local contexts. On 1 key, components arranged 160 and 40 reinforcers/hr; on the other, components arranged 40 and 10 reinforcers/hr. Response rates in the 40/hr component were higher in the latter pair. Within pairs, resistance to prefeeding and resistance to extinction were generally greater in the richer component. The two 40/hr components did not differ in resistance to prefeeding, but the 40/hr component that alternated with 10/hr was more resistant to extinction. This discrepancy was interpreted by an algebraic model relating response strength to component reinforcer rate, including generalization decrement. According to this model, strength is independent of context, consistent with research on schedule preference.

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