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Producing a change from competition to sharing: effects of large and adjusting response requirements1

By Dennis R. Olvera and Don F. Hake


Pairs of high-school students matched-to-sample for money. On each trial, the first pair member to complete a fixed ratio of knob-pulling responses could work the matching problem on that trial. Competition occurred when both pair members responded for the problem. Sharing occurred when only one pair member responded on each trial, and the subjects alternated trials. Hence, sharing requires less responding and still allows a moderate number of reinforcers for each subject. Recent research has shown that increasing the response requirement to the point that it may have aversive properties will produce a change from competition to sharing. A related variable is an adjusting schedule that adjusts the subjects' response requirements so that their abilities to take reinforcers are equal. In this way, subjects might learn that competition requires more responding but produces no more reinforcers. However, recent research also suggests that competition decreases over sessions without experimental manipulations. Because of this possibility of a time-related variable, ratio size and an adjusting schedule were studied in a group design. Competition did decrease for all groups over sessions, but the large-ratio groups switched from competition to sharing sooner than the low-ratio groups. The adjusting schedule had a similar but smaller effect

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