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Separating the reinforcing and discriminative properties of brief-stimulus presentations in second-order schedules.

  • S L Cohen
  • G Calisto
  • B E Lentz
Publication Date
Sep 01, 1979


Pigeons' responses were maintained under multiple schedules to study properties of briefly presented stimuli. Responses in one component produced food according to a second-order schedule with fixed-interval components in which food or a brief stimulus occurred with equal probability. In the second component responses produced only the brief stimulus under a fixed-ratio schedule. Under various conditions the brief stimulus in the first component was (a) paired with food, (b) not paired with food, (c) partially omitted, or (d) scheduled simultaneously with the second-order schedule under an independent variable-interval schedule. Paired and nonpaired brief stimuli maintained similar response patterning in the second-order schedule. However, only paired stimuli maintained responses in the second component. The data suggest that nonpaired brief stimuli engender response patterning in second-order schedules as a result of their discriminative properties. When the stimulus is paired with food, these discriminative properties sometime mask a reinforcement effect, and no change in response patterning is observed. When the discriminative properties of the brief stimulus are absent, the reinforcing effects of pairing the brief stimulus with food may be observed.

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