Document Detail

Comparing pleasure and pain: the fundamental mathematical equivalence of reward gain and shock reduction under variable interval schedules.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  23144510     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
The relationship between positive and negative reinforcement and the symmetry of Thorndike's law of effect are unresolved issues in operant psychology. Here we show that, for a given pattern of responding on variable interval (VI) schedules with the same programmed rate of food rewards (positive reinforcement VI) or electric shocks (negative reinforcement VI), there is a fundamental mathematical equivalence between reward gain and shock reduction. We also provide the first normative account of how animals should respond on a negative VI schedule, showing that it is better to space responses evenly than to respond with a variable interresponse time (IRT). Published data from rats, however, indicate that these animals respond irregularly, often with a burst of activity immediately following a shock. While this is irrational in the experimental setting, it may represent an appropriate response to the heterogeneity of stimuli commonly encountered in natural environments. We discuss the broader implications of our analysis for understanding how animals evaluate appetitive and aversive stimuli.
Dave E W Mallpress; Tim W Fawcett; John M McNamara; Alasdair I Houston
Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior     Volume:  98     ISSN:  1938-3711     ISO Abbreviation:  J Exp Anal Behav     Publication Date:  2012 Nov 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2012-11-12     Completed Date:  2013-05-03     Revised Date:  2013-07-11    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0203727     Medline TA:  J Exp Anal Behav     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  355-67     Citation Subset:  IM    
Modelling Animal Decisions (MAD) Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, England.
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MeSH Terms
Avoidance Learning*
Models, Psychological*
Psychological Theory*
Reinforcement (Psychology)*
Reinforcement Schedule*

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