Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #210
Investigations of Choice
Sunday, May 27, 2018
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Rancho Santa Fe 1-3
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Daniel Bell-Garrison (West Virginia University)
Discussant: James S. MacDonall (Fordham University)

This symposium discusses human and animal research related to a wide variety of contexts that can be considered as choice situations. The speakers' research includes the identification of conditions that induce deliberation between relatively similar choice options in pigeons, investigations of variables affecting the choice of pigeons in concurrent ratio schedules of reinforcement, behavioral economic analyses of the impact of constant versus qualitatively varied reinforcers on responding by humans and rats, and the control of saccadic eye movements of humans under concurrent schedules of reinforcement. While these studies differ widely in the selection of species and procedures, together they contribute to a better understanding of the conditions under which choice is sensitive to environmental manipulations.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Animal Behavior, Choice, Concurrent Schedules, Human Behavior

Covert Deliberation in Pigeons?

Matthew C. Bell (Santa Clara University), FEDERICO SANABRIA (Arizona State University)

Latency to choose between alternatives appears to increase with smaller differences in value in primates, but not in birds. This differential effect across species indicates a potential route to investigate the evolution of covert deliberation. We investigated the effect of value differential on choice latency in pigeons, varying either just the delay of reinforcement associated with each alternative (Experiments 1-3), or varying both the delay and amount of reinforcement (Experiment 4). Latency to choose the sooner of otherwise equivalent reinforcers did not vary systematically with delay differential. However, latency to choose the preferred delay-amount combination increased as preference approached indifference. These results suggest that covert deliberation in pigeons emerges when multiple dimensions of reinforcement compete for control over choice.

Choice Dynamics in Concurrent Ratio Schedules
DANIEL BELL-GARRISON (West Virginia University), Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: A long history of research has shown that choice behavior on concurrent variable-interval schedules is well-described and predicted by the generalized matching law. When responding between ratio schedules is of interest, however, the matching law only superficially describes choice because the probability of reinforcement does not increase through time for both alternatives as it does for interval schedules. When two variable-ratio schedules are arranged dependently, such that responses to one option simultaneously increments the ratio counter for both options, animals’ allocation of responses approximates matching. The extent to which choice is sensitive to changes in changeover delays or other common manipulations remains unknown. This series of experiments investigated effects of some variables commonly used in concurrent variable-interval schedules on choice in concurrent ratio schedules. Experiment 1 parametrically assessed effects of changeover delays of varying lengths on response allocation. Experiment 2 compared choice under concurrent variable- and fixed-ratio schedules of reinforcement. Experiment 3 investigated effects of scheduling concurrent variable-ratio schedules interdependently (e.g., Stubbs & Pliskoff, 1969).

A Behavioral Economic Analysis of Choice Between Constant and Qualitatively Varied Reinforcers

ALICIA ROCA (National Autonomous University of Mexico), Frida Montserrat Lira (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

During behavioral interventions, practitioners commonly use a variety of reinforcers to maintain behaviors. Despite the ubiquity of this practice, few studies have compared the effects of varied and constant reinforcers on responding. Furthermore, the studies yielded mixed results. Varied reinforcers do not consistently maintain higher relative response rates. The origin of such mixed results could be the interaction among the stimuli used as reinforcers (the degree of substitutability).The effects of varied versus constant reinforcers on response rates and choice were determined in the present study. Two experiments were conducted with either human participants or rats as subjects. In both experiments, the degree of substitutability between pairs of stimuli was determined using concurrent operant arrangements. After identifying pairs of substitute and complementary reinforcers, the effects of constant versus varied reinforcers on response rates was determined using multiple schedules of reinforcement. During a final condition, choice between constant and varied reinforcers was assessed using a concurrent schedule. Results showed that varied reinforcers generated higher response rates and were preferred over constant reinforcers when complementary reinforcers were used. The results suggest that only certain types of reinforcers endow each other with reinforcing properties, resulting in higher response rates relative to constant reinforcer presentation.


One Can Choose One's Own Saccadic Reaction Times

CÉCILE VULLINGS (Universite Lille Nord de France, Sciences Cognitives et Sciences Affectives), Laurent Madelain (Universite Lille Nord de France)

Saccade latencies are conventionally viewed as reflecting the accumulation of information underlying decision-making processes. However, we have previously shown that latency distributions may be strongly affected by reinforcement contingencies (Madelain et al., 2007). Here we further probe whether one can control one’s own reaction times. In a first series of experiments, participants had to choose between “short” and “long” saccadic latencies (80-300ms range) in a set of concurrent interval schedules. The relative proportions of latencies matched the relative proportions of reinforcers earned from each option (sensitivity up to 0.95), following the generalized matching law (Baum, 1974). In a second series of experiments, we assessed whether “short” and “long” latencies (80-500ms range) could be placed under discriminative control in a visual search task. We used a latency-contingent display in which finding the target was made contingent upon specific saccadic latencies. In probe trials we found considerable differences in latency distributions depending on the discriminative stimuli (on average 72ms). Altogether, our results reveal that learned contingencies might considerably affect the allocation of saccades in time and provide strong evidence of the ability to choose when to saccade, extending saccade triggering well beyond conventional information accumulation hypothesis.




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