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Concurrent variable-interval variable-ratio schedules can provide only weak evidence for matching

By John M. Ziriax and Alan Silberberg


Herrnstein and Heyman (1979) showed that when pigeons' pecking is reinforced on concurrent variable-interval variable-ratio schedules, (1) their behavior ratios match the ratio of the schedules' reinforcer frequencies, and (2) there is more responding on the variable interval. Since maximizing the reinforcement rate would require responding more on the variable ratio, these results were presented as establishing the primacy of matching over maximizing. In the present report, different ratios of behavior were simulated on a computer to see how they would affect reinforcement rates on these concurrent schedules. Over a wide range of experimenter-specified choice ratios, matching obtained — a result suggesting that changes in choice allocation produced changes in reinforcer frequencies that correspond to the matching outcome. Matching also occurred at arbitrarily selected choice ratios when reinforcement rates were algebraically determined by each schedule's reinforcement-feedback function. Additionally, three birds were exposed to concurrent variable-interval variable-ratio schedules contingent on key pecking in which hopper durations were varied in some conditions to produce experimenter-specified choice ratios. Matching generally obtained between choice ratios and reinforcer-frequency ratios at these different choice ratios. By suggesting that reinforcer frequencies track choice on this procedure, instead of vice versa, this outcome questions whether matching-as-outcome was due to matching-as-process in the Herrnstein and Heyman study

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OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:1347958
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