Response persistence under variable-time schedules following immediate and unsignalled delayed reinforcement

Q J Exp Psychol B. 2003 Aug;56(3):267-77. doi: 10.1080/02724990244000124.


Key pecking of three pigeons was maintained in separate components of a multiple schedule by either immediate reinforcement (i.e., tandem variable-time fixed-interval schedule) or unsignalled delayed reinforcement (i.e., tandem variable-interval fixed-time schedule). The relative rate of food delivery was equal across components, and this absolute rate differed across conditions. Immediate reinforcement always generated higher response rates than did unsignalled delayed reinforcement. Then, variable-time schedules of food delivery replaced the contingencies just described such that food was delivered at the same rate but independently of responding. In most cases, response rates decreased to near-zero levels. In addition, response persistence was not systematically different between multiple-schedule components across pigeons. The implications of the results for the concepts of response strength and the response-reinforcer relation are noted.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Columbidae
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology*
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Time Factors