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Discriminability of fixed-ratio schedules for pigeons: effects of payoff values

By Sally L. Hobson


Three pigeons, previously trained to discriminate different numbers of responses (fixed ratios), were tested under different reinforcement contingencies (payoff matrices) at two levels of sensitivity. For one subject, relative reinforcement magnitude was varied—at first, across sessions and then, at midsession by reversing values—without exteroceptive cues. For another, relative reinforcement magnitude and/or probability was varied every 50 trials with cues by correlating different payoff matrices with different key colors. For the third subject, relative reinforcement probability was varied more frequently with cues—in the limit, at random—to demonstrate stimulus control of response bias on a trial-by-trial basis. A signal-detection analysis showed that bias changed with payoffs, for as many as seven different matrices, while sensitivity remained unchanged. The obtained functions (receiver operating characteristics) were similar under different payoff conditions, which suggests that a single mechanism controls bias. However, they differed enough in slope to require a relatively complex account (e.g., the general Gaussian model of detection theory)

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