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Animal procrastination: Pigeons choose to defer experiencing an aversive gap or a peck requirement

Authors
  • Zentall, Thomas R.1
  • Peng, Daniel1
  • House, Dalton1
  • Halloran, Megan1
  • 1 University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 40506, USA , Lexington (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Learning & Behavior
Publisher
Springer US
Publication Date
Dec 16, 2019
Volume
48
Issue
2
Pages
246–253
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3758/s13420-019-00397-2
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

When humans procrastinate, they delay completing a required relatively aversive task. In the present experiments with pigeons, we considered the possibility that completing the task close to the deadline results in the formation of a stronger conditioned reinforcer. In Experiment 1, pigeons were given a choice between two chains: (a) a signaled long period, followed by a dark gap, followed by a signaled short conditioned reinforcer, and food and (b) a signaled short period, followed by a dark gap, followed by a signaled long conditioned reinforcer, and food. We found a reliable preference for the delayed gap. In Experiment 2, we let pigeons choose between two chains: (a) walking to a near panel to peck a key, followed by a long walk to peck a key for reinforcement and (b) walking to a far panel to peck a key followed by a short walk to peck a key for reinforcement. When a single peck was required to either key, the pigeons were indifferent. When ten pecks were required to the near key but only one peck to the far key, the pigeons preferred the far key. When ten pecks were required to either key, the pigeons preferred the far key. The results of both experiments suggest that pigeons prefer to defer a relatively aversive event but, in keeping with Fantino’s Delay Reduction Theory, this effect may result from the development of a strong conditioner reinforcer that occurs when the event (the gap or required pecking) comes close to reinforcement.

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