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Reinforcement schedules: the role of responses preceding the one that produces the reinforcer1

By A. Charles Catania


In a two-key pigeon chamber, variable-interval reinforcement was scheduled for a specified number of pecks, emitted either on a single key or in a particular sequence on the two keys. Although the distribution of pecks between the two keys was affected by whether pecks were required on one or on both keys, the total pecks emitted was not; the change from a one-key to a two-key requirement simply moved some pecks from one key to the other. Thus, each peck preceding the one that produced the reinforcer contributed independently to the subsequent rate of responding; the contribution of a particular peck in the sequence was determined by the time between its emission and the delivery of the reinforcer (delay of reinforcement), and was identified by the proportion of pecks moved from one key to the other when the response requirement at that point in the sequence was moved from one key to the other

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