Preference for 50% reinforcement over 75% reinforcement by pigeons

Cassandra D. Gipson, Jérôme J.D. Alessandri, Holly C. Miller, Thomas R. Zentall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

When pigeons are given a choice between an initial-link alternative that results in either a terminal-link stimulus correlated with 100% reinforcement or a stimulus correlated with 0% reinforcement (overall 50% reinforcement) and another initial-link alternative that always results in a terminal-link stimulus correlated with 100% reinforcement, some pigeons show a preference for the initial-link alternative correlated with 50% reinforcement. Using this procedure, in Experiment 1, we found a relatively modest preference for 100% over 50% reinforcement. In Experiment 2, we decreased the reinforcement density for the second initial-link alternative to 75% and found a significant preference for the 50% reinforcement initial-link alternative. It may be that this "maladaptive" behavior results from a positive contrast between the expectation of reinforcement correlated with the 50% reinforcement initial-link alternative and the terminal-link stimulus correlated with 100% reinforcement. But apparently, the complementary negative contrast does not develop between the expectation of reinforcement correlated with the 50% reinforcement initial-link alternative and the terminal-link stimulus correlated with 0% reinforcement that often follow. Such paradoxical choice may account for certain human appetitive risk-taking behavior (e.g., gambling) as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-298
Number of pages10
JournalLearning and Behavior
Volume37
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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