Pavlovian contingencies and resistance to change in multiple schedules of reinforcement

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John Wiley & Sons, Ltd


According to theoretical accounts of behavioral momentum, the Pavlovian stimulus—reinforcer contingency determines resistance to change. To assess this prediction, 8 pigeons were exposed to an unsignaled delay-of-reinforcement schedule (a tandem variable-interval fixed-time schedule), a signaled delay-of-reinforcement schedule (a chain variable-interval fixed-time schedule), and an immediate, zero-delay schedule of reinforcement in a three-component multiple schedule. The unsignaled delay and signaled delay schedules employed equal fixed-time delays, with the only difference being a stimulus change in the signaled delay schedule. Overall rates of reinforcement were equated for the three schedules. The Pavlovian contingency was identical for the unsignaled and immediate schedules, and response—reinforcer contiguity was degraded for the unsignaled schedule. Results from two disruption procedures (prefeeding subjects prior to experimental sessions and adding a variable-time schedule to timeout periods separating baseline components) demonstrated that response—reinforcer contiguity does play a role in determining resistance to change. The results from the extinction manipulation were not as clear. Responding in the unsignaled delay component was consistently less resistant to change than was responding in both the immediate and presignaled segments of the signaled delay components, contrary to the view that Pavlovian contingencies determine resistance to change. Probe tests further supported the resistance-to-change results, indicating consistency between resistance to change and preference, both of which are putative measures of response strength.