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J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 2001 Oct;27(4):354-72.

The rat approximates an ideal detector of changes in rates of reward: implications for the law of effect.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.


Rats responded on 2 levers delivering brain stimulation reward on concurrent variable interval schedules. Following many successive sessions with unchanging relative rates of reward, subjects adjusted to an eventual change slowly and showed spontaneous reversions at the beginning of subsequent sessions. When changes in rates of reward occurred between and within every session, subjects adjusted to them about as rapidly as they could in principle do so, as shown by comparison to a Bayesian model of an ideal detector. This and other features of the adjustments to frequent changes imply that the behavioral effect of reinforcement depends on the subject's perception of incomes and changes in incomes rather than on the strengthening and weakening of behaviors in accord with their past effects or expected results. Models for the process by which perceived incomes determine stay durations and for the process that detects changes in rates are developed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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