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J Exp Anal Behav. 2012 Mar;97(2):183-202. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2012.97-183.

Effects of economy type and nicotine on the essential value of food in rats.

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Department of Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


The exponential demand equation proposed by Hursh and Silberberg (2008) provides an estimate of the essential value of a good as a function of price. The model predicts that essential value should remain constant across changes in the magnitude of a reinforcer, but may change as a function of motivational operations. In Experiment 1, rats' demand for food across a sequence of fixed-ratio schedules was assessed during open and closed economy conditions and across one- and two-pellet per reinforcer delivery conditions. The exponential equation was fitted to the relation between fixed-ratio size and the logarithm of the absolute number of reinforcers. Estimates of the rate of change in elasticity of food, the proposed measure of essential value, were compared across conditions. Essential value was equivalent across magnitudes during the closed economy, but showed a slight decrease across magnitudes during the open economy. Experiment 2 explored the behavioral mechanisms of nicotine's effects on consumption with the results from Experiment 1 serving as a within-subject frame of reference. The same subjects were administered nicotine via subcutaneously implanted osmotic minipumps at a dose of 3 mg/kg/day and exposed to both the one- and two-pellet conditions under a closed economy. Although nicotine produced large decreases in demand, essential value was not significantly changed. The data from the present experiments provide further evidence for the adequacy of the exponential demand equation as a tool for quantifying the rate of change in elasticity of a good and for assessing behavioral mechanisms of drug action.


closed economy; elasticity of demand; lever press; nicotine; rats

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