The matching law in and within groups of rats

J Exp Anal Behav. 1977 Jan;27(1):183-94. doi: 10.1901/jeab.1977.27-183.


In each of the two experiments, a group of five rats lived in a complex maze containing four small single-lever operant chambers. In two of these chambers, food was available on variable-interval schedules of reinforcement. In Experiment I, nine combinations of variable intervals were used, and the aggregate lever-pressing rates (by the five rats together) were studied. The log ratio of the rates in the two chambers was linearly related to the log ratio of the reinforcement rates in them; this is an instance of Herrnstein's matching law, as generalized by Baum. Summing over the two food chambers, food consumption decreased, and response output increased, as the time required to earn each pellet increased. In Experiment II, the behavior of individual rats was observed by time-sampling on selected days, while different variable-interval schedules were arranged in the two chambers where food was available. Individual lever-pressing rates for the rats were obtained, and their median bore the same "matching" relationship to the reinforcement rates as the group aggregate in Experiment I. There were differences between the rats in their distribution of time and responses between the two food chambers; these differences were correlated with differences in the proportions of reinforcements the rats obtained from each chamber.