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Probability learning as a function of momentary reinforcement probability1

By Ben A. Williams


Pigeons were trained on a probability learning task where the overall reinforcement probability was 0.50 for each response alternative but where the momentary reinforcement probability differed and depended upon the outcome of the preceding trial. In all cases, the maximum reinforcement occurred with a “win-stay, lose-shift” response pattern. When both position and color were relevant cues, the optimal response pattern was learned when the reinforcement probability for repeating the just-reinforced response was 0.80 but not when the probability was 0.65. When only color was relevant, learning occurred much more slowly, and only for subjects trained on large fixed ratio requirements

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