Choice dynamics in concurrent ratio schedules of reinforcement

J Exp Anal Behav. 2023 Mar;119(2):337-355. doi: 10.1002/jeab.828. Epub 2023 Jan 30.


The generalized matching law predicts performance on concurrent schedules when variable-interval schedules are programmed but is trivially applicable when independent ratio schedules are used. Responding usually is exclusive to the schedule with the lowest response requirement. Determining a method to program concurrent ratio schedules such that matching analyses can be usefully employed would extend the generality of matching research and lead to new avenues of research. In the present experiments, ratio schedules were programmed dependently such that responses to either of the two options progressed the requirement on both schedules. Responding is not exclusive because the probability of reinforcement increases on both schedules as responses are allocated to either schedule. In Experiment 1, performance on concurrent variable-ratio schedules was assessed, and reinforcer ratios were varied across conditions to investigate changes in sensitivity. Additionally, the length of a changeover delay was manipulated. In Experiment 2, performance was compared under concurrently available, dependently programmed variable-ratio and fixed-ratio schedules. Performance was well described by the generalized matching law. Increases in the changeover delay decreased sensitivity, whereas sensitivity was higher when variable-ratio schedules were employed, compared with fixed-ratio schedules. Concurrent ratio schedules can be a viable approach to studying functional differences between ratio and interval schedules.

Keywords: choice; concurrent schedules; pigeons; ratio schedules.

MeSH terms

  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*