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Unification of models for choice between delayed reinforcers.

  • P R Killeen
  • E Fantino
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1990


Two models for choice between delayed reinforcers, Fantino's delay-reduction theory and Killeen's incentive theory, are reviewed. Incentive theory is amended to incorporate the effects of arousal on alternate types of behavior that might block the reinforcement of the target behavior. This amended version is shown to differ from the delay-reduction theory in a term that is an exponential in incentive theory and a difference in delay-reduction theory. A power series approximation to the exponential generates a model that is formally identical with delay-reduction theory. Correlations between delay-reduction theory and the amended incentive theory show excellent congruence over a range of experimental conditions. Although the assumptions that gave rise to delay-reduction theory and incentive theory remain different and testable, the models deriving from the theories are unlikely to be discriminable by parametric experimental tests. This congruence of the models is recognized by naming the common model the delayed reinforcement model, which is then compared with other models of choice such as Killeen and Fetterman's (1988) behavioral theory of timing, Mazur's (1984) equivalence rule, and Vaughan's (1985) melioration theory.

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