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Choosing among natural stimuli

By William Vaughan and R. J. Herrnstein


Pigeons worked on concurrent variable-interval, variable-interval schedules with the alternatives signaled by slides either containing trees or not. The schedules were designed to hold both overall and relative rates of reinforcement within narrowly constrained limits, and slides were quasi-randomly ordered each day. Responding to the two alternatives was well described by the generalized matching equation with substantial undermatching. Using an adaptation of the matching law, we estimated that the subjects were correctly classifying 82% to 95% of exemplars. The matching performance transferred to new exemplars of trees and nontrees with only slight generalization decrement. The pigeons appeared to be discriminating among exemplars even when the alternatives provided equal rates of reinforcement and the average relative performances were close to 50%

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