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Intractable properties of responding under a fixed-interval schedule

By G. David Gentry and M. Jackson Marr


The behavior engendered by the fixed-interval schedule is characterized by its variability within and across intervals. The present experiment was designed to assess further the magnitude of interval-to-interval dynamics and to explore conditions which might enhance control by response number for subsequent output. Pigeons were exposed to three experimental manipulations after responding had stabilized under a fixed-interval five-minute schedule. First, a discrete five-stimulus counter was added so that the key color changed after a fixed number of responses. Then additional grain presentations were made at the end of the interval so that high response output was differentially reinforced in the presence of the counter stimuli. Finally, the counter stimuli were presented as an irregular clock (i.e., independently of responding), but the durations were yoked to performance under the counter condition. The data show that response number can exert influence from one interval to the next, but this source of control is weak and not influenced by the experimental manipulations. Results from the clock arrangement indicate that behavior is controlled largely by the stimulus conditions prevailing at the time of interval onset

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