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J Exp Anal Behav. 1998 Jan;69(1):87-102.

Humans' choice in a self-control choice situation: sensitivity to reinforcer amount, reinforcer delay, and overall reinforcement density.

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Department of Psychology, Osaka City University, Japan.


Human subjects were exposed to a concurrent-chains schedule in which reinforcer amounts, delays, or both were varied in the terminal links, and consummatory responses were required to receive points that were later exchangeable for money. Two independent variable-interval 30-s schedules were in effect during the initial links, and delay periods were defined by fixed-time schedules. In Experiment 1, subjects were exposed to three different pairs of reinforcer amounts and delays, and sensitivity to reinforcer amount and delay was determined based on the generalized matching law. The relative responding (choice) of most subjects was more sensitive to reinforcer amount than to reinforcer delay. In Experiment 2, subjects chose between immediate smaller reinforcers and delayed larger reinforcers in five conditions with and without timeout periods that followed a shorter delay, in which reinforcer amounts and delays were combined to make different predictions based on local reinforcement density (i.e., points per delay) or overall reinforcement density (i.e., points per total time). In most conditions, subjects' choices were qualitatively in accord with the predictions from the overall reinforcement density calculated by the ratio of reinforcer amount and total time. Therefore, the overall reinforcement density appears to influence the preference of humans in the present self-control choice situation.

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