Effect of a single free food presentation on extinction responding in a multiple schedule

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The present study was designed to assess the effect of a single, response-independent food presentation on responding during extinction. Using a two-component multiple schedule, we examined differences in pigeons’ extinction responding resulting from a single response-independent food presentation occurring at the beginning of the experimental session (30-s prior to the beginning of the first component). One component presented reinforcement according to a variable interval 45-s schedule and the second presented reinforcement according to a variable interval 180-s schedule. After establishing stable baseline responding we extinguished responding. We systematically manipulated the presence or absence of a single 3-s free food presentation using the food hopper that occurred 30-s prior to the presentation of the first component. We found the single free food presentation increased persistence of responding in extinction. This finding is inconsistent with behavioral momentum theory inasmuch as it assigns a response disruptive role to food presentations occurring outside of the context of the target operant.