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J Exp Anal Behav. 2003 Nov;80(3):273-93.

The resistance to change of observing.

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Department of Psychology, Utah State University, Logan 84322, USA.


Observing responses produce contact with discriminative stimuli and have been considered analogous to attending. Many studies have examined the effects of reinforcement rate on the resistance to change of simple operant behavior, but nothing is known about the resistance to change of observing. Two experiments examined the effects of primary reinforcement rate on the resistance to change of observing behavior of pigeons. In Experiment 1, a multiple schedule of observing-response procedures was arranged. In a rich component, observing responses produced stimuli correlated with a high rate of random-interval (RI) reinforcement or extinction. In a lean component, observing responses produced stimuli correlated with a lower rate of RI reinforcement or extinction. In both components, observing responses produced the multiple-schedule stimuli on a fixed-interval 0.75-s schedule. In Experiment 2, a similar procedure was used, but observing in the rich and lean components produced schedule-correlated stimuli on an RI 15-s schedule. Observing in the rich component occurred at a higher rate and was more resistant to disruptions produced by presession feeding and response-independent food deliveries during intercomponent intervals. Despite more frequent observing during unsignaled periods of extinction than unsignaled periods of RI reinforcement, observing during extinction periods was less resistant to change. In addition, replicating the usual result, responding on the food key was generally more resistant to change in the presence of stimuli associated with higher reinforcement rates. These results suggest that quantitative descriptions of resistance to change derived with simple food-maintained responding may be applicable to observing, and perhaps by extension, to attending.

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