The ability of organisms to detect reinforcer-rate changes in choice preparations is positively related to two factors: the magnitude of the change in rate and the frequency with which rates change. Gallistel (2012) suggested similar rate-detection processes are responsible for decreases in responding during operant extinction. Although effects of magnitude of change in reinforcer rate on resistance to extinction are well known (e.g., the partial-reinforcement-extinction effect), effects of frequency of changes in rate prior to extinction are unknown. Thus, the present experiments examined whether frequency of changes in baseline reinforcer rates impacts resistance to extinction. Pigeons pecked keys for variable-interval food under conditions where reinforcer rates were stable and where they changed within and between sessions. Overall reinforcer rates between conditions were controlled. In Experiment 1, resistance to extinction was lower following exposure to dynamic reinforcement schedules than to static schedules. Experiment 2 showed that resistance to presession feeding, a disruptor that should not involve change-detection processes, was unaffected by baseline-schedule dynamics. These findings are consistent with the suggestion that change detection contributes to extinction. We discuss implications of change-detection processes for extinction of simple and discriminated operant behavior and relate these processes to the behavioral-momentum based approach to understanding extinction.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/timothy_shahan/56/