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J Exp Anal Behav. 2004 Sep;82(2):143-59.

Matching: its acquisition and generalization.

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Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst 01003, USA.


Choice typically is studied by exposing organisms to concurrent variable-interval schedules in which not only responses controlled by stimuli on the key are acquired but also switching responses and likely other operants as well. In the present research, discriminated key-pecking responses in pigeons were first acquired using a multiple schedule that minimized the reinforcement of switching operants. Then, choice was assessed during concurrent-probe periods in which pairs of discriminative stimuli were presented concurrently. Upon initial exposure to concurrently presented stimuli, choice approximated exclusive preference for the alternative associated with the higher reinforcement frequency. Concurrent schedules were then implemented that gave increasingly greater opportunities for switching operants to be conditioned. As these operants were acquired, the relation of relative response frequency to relative reinforcement frequency converged toward a matching relation. An account of matching with concurrent schedules is proposed in which responding exclusively to the discriminative stimulus associated with the higher reinforcement frequency declines as the concurrent stimuli become more similar and other operants-notably switching-are acquired and generalize to stimuli from both alternatives. The concerted effect of these processes fosters an approximate matching relation in commonly used concurrent procedures.

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