Overmatching in rats: the barrier choice paradigm

J Exp Anal Behav. 2001 Jan;75(1):93-106. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2001.75-93.


The barrier choice paradigm was used to impose a cost on rats' behavior of traveling between two levers: Pressing on two levers was reinforced with food on concurrent random-interval schedules, but rats had to climb over a barrier to move from one lever to another. The height of the barrier separating the levers was increased from 30.5 to 45.7 cm across two phases that involved various pairs of random-interval schedules. With the 30.5-cm barrier, the generalized matching law showed slopes equal to or slightly above 1.0 for response and time allocation. With the 45.7-cm barrier, the generalized matching law showed slopes above 1.2 for responses, indicating that sensitivity to reinforcement increased with increasing barrier height. For time allocation the slopes remained close to 1.0; sensitivity to reinforcement did not seem to increase with increasing barrier height. The role of locomotion effort in choice situations is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reinforcement, Psychology