Behavioral theory of timing: reinforcement rate determines pacemaker rate
In the behavioral theory of timing, pulses from a hypothetical Poisson pacemaker produce transitions between states that are correlated with adjunctive behavior. The adjunctive behavior serves as a discriminative stimulus for temporal discriminations. The present experiments tested the assumption that the average interpulse time of the pacemaker is proportional to interreinforcer interval. Responses on a left key were reinforced at variable intervals for the first 25 s since the beginning of a 50-s trial, and right-key responses were reinforced at variable intervals during the second 25 s. Psychometric functions relating proportion of right-key responses to time since trial onset, in 5-s intervals across the 50-s trial, were sigmoidal in form. Average interpulse times derived by fitting quantitative predictions from the behavioral theory of timing to obtained psychometric functions decreased when the interreinforcer interval was decreased and increased when the interreinforcer interval was increased, as predicted by the theory. In a second experiment, average interpulse times estimated from trials without reinforcement followed global changes in interreinforcer interval, as predicted by the theory. Changes in temporal discrimination as a function of interreinforcer interval were therefore not influenced by the discrimination of reinforcer occurrence. The present data support the assumption of the behavioral theory of timing that interpulse time is determined by interreinforcer interval.
Bizo, LA & White, KG 1994, 'Behavioral theory of timing: reinforcement rate determines pacemaker rate', Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, vol. 61, no. 1, pp. 19-33.
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