Signals, resistance to change, and conditioned reinforcement in a multiple schedule

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The effect of signals on resistance to change was evaluated using pigeons responding on a three-component multiple schedule. Each component contained a variable-interval initial link followed by a fixed-time terminal link. One component was an unsignaled-delay schedule, and two were equivalent signaled-delay schedules. After baseline training, resistance to change was assessed through (a) extinction and (b) adding free food to the intercomponent interval. During these tests, the signal stimulus from one of the signaled-delay components (SIG-T) was replaced with the initial-link stimulus from that component, converting it to an unsignaled-delay schedule. That signal stimulus was added to the delay period of the unsignaled-delay component (UNS), converting it to a signaled-delay schedule. The remaining signaled component remained unchanged (SIG-C). Resistance-to-change tests showed removing the signal had a minimal effect on resistance to change in the SIG-T component compared to the unchanged SIG-C component except for one block during free-food testing. Adding the signal to the UNS component significantly increased response rates suggesting that component had low response strength. Interestingly, the direction of the effect was in the opposite direction from what is typically observed. Results are consistent with the conclusion that the signal functioned as a conditioned reinforcer and inconsistent with a generalization-decrement explanation.