Pausing under variable-ratio schedules: Interaction of reinforcer magnitude, variable-ratio size, and lowest ratio

J Exp Anal Behav. 1990 Jan;53(1):133-9. doi: 10.1901/jeab.1990.53-133.


Pigeons pecked a key under two-component multiple variable-ratio schedules that offered 8-s or 2-s access to grain. Postreinforcement pausing and the rates of responding following the pause (run rates) in each component were measured as a function of variable-ratio size and the size of the lowest ratio in the configuration of ratios comprising each schedule. In one group of subjects, variable-ratio size was varied while the size of the lowest ratio was held constant. In a second group, the size of the lowest ratio was varied while variable-ratio size was held constant. For all subjects, the mean duration of postreinforcement pausing increased in the 2-s component but not in the 8-s component. Postreinforcement pauses increased with increases in variable-ratio size (Group 1) and with increases in the lowest ratio (Group 2). In both groups, run rates were slightly higher in the 8-s component than in the 2-s component. Run rates decreased slightly as variable-ratio size increased, but were unaffected by increases in the size of the lowest ratio. These results suggest that variable-ratio size, the size of the lowest ratio, and reinforcer magnitude interact to determine the duration of postreinforcement pauses.