Behavioral Contrast in Pigeons and Rats: A Comparative Analysis

Publication Date

January 1989


The effects of reinforcement rate on behavioral contrast were examined in pigeons and rats. Each species was exposed to a series of 12 multiple variable-interval schedules, divided into four 3-schedule series. Each series consisted of a standard contrast manipulation, and baseline schedules provided a different rate of reinforcement in each of the series. The functions relating reinforcement rate to the magnitude of contrast were different across species. Rats showed a U-shaped function, with reliable contrast occurring only at high reinforcement rates. Pigeons showed an inverted U-shaped function, with contrast occurring on all schedules except the schedule providing the lowest rate of reinforcement. Pigeons discriminated between schedule components better than rats did, although differences in discrimination were probably not responsible for the differences in contrast. The results suggest that behavioral contrast in rats may be a different phenomenon from behavioral contrast in pigeons. The results cannot be explained by current theories, which view contrast as the product of a single general process.



This document is currently not available here.