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Human free-operant performance varies with a concurrent task: Probability learning without a task, and schedule-consistent with a task

Authors
  • Reed, Phil1
  • 1 Swansea University,
Type
Published Article
Journal
Learning & Behavior
Publisher
Springer US
Publication Date
Jan 02, 2020
Volume
48
Issue
2
Pages
254–273
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3758/s13420-019-00398-1
PMID: 31898165
PMCID: PMC7275008
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Article
License
Unknown

Abstract

Three experiments examined human rates and patterns of responding during exposure to various schedules of reinforcement with or without a concurrent task. In the presence of the concurrent task, performances were similar to those typically noted for nonhumans. Overall response rates were higher on medium-sized ratio schedules than on smaller or larger ratio schedules (Experiment 1 ), on interval schedules with shorter than longer values (Experiment 2 ), and on ratio compared with interval schedules with the same rate of reinforcement (Experiment 3 ). Moreover, bout-initiation responses were more susceptible to influence by rates of reinforcement than were within-bout responses across all experiments. In contrast, in the absence of a concurrent task, human schedule performance did not always display characteristics of nonhuman performance, but tended to be related to the relationship between rates of responding and reinforcement (feedback function), irrespective of the schedule of reinforcement employed. This was also true of within-bout responding, but not bout-initiations, which were not affected by the presence of a concurrent task. These data suggest the existence of two strategies for human responding on free-operant schedules, relatively mechanistic ones that apply to bout-initiation, and relatively explicit ones, that tend to apply to within-bout responding, and dominate human performance when other demands are not made on resources.

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