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Animal Cognition

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 81–87 | Cite as

Contrast between what is expected and what occurs increases pigeon’s suboptimal choice

  • Thomas R. ZentallEmail author
  • Danielle M. Andrews
  • Jacob P. Case
Original Paper

Abstract

When pigeons are given a choice between 50% signaled reinforcement and 100% reinforcement they typically do not choose optimally, sometimes even preferring 50% reinforcement. Smith and Zentall (J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process 42:212–220, 2016) proposed that choice depends primarily on the predictive value of the signal for reinforcement associated with each alternative (both 100% reinforcement) and not the frequency of the signal for reinforcement (50% vs. 100%). With extended training, however, Case and Zentall (Behav Process, 2018) found that pigeons actually show a reliable preference for the 50% reinforcement alternative. They suggested that contrast between the expected outcome at the time of choice (50% reinforcement) and the value of the signal for reinforcement (100% reinforcement) is the mechanism responsible for the preference for the suboptimal alternative (for the optimal alternative there should be no contrast). In the present research, we tested the contrast hypothesis by increasing the probability of reinforcement for choice of the suboptimal alternative to 75%, thereby reducing the contrast between expected and obtained reinforcement and found a reduced preference for the suboptimal alternative. That is, increasing the probability of reinforcement for choice of the suboptimal alternative decreased suboptimal choice. Thus, preference for the suboptimal alternative appears to result from two mechanisms: (1) the value of the signal for reinforcement that follows choice of the alternative and (2) positive contrast between the expected and obtained probability of reinforcement. We compared this interpretation with other hypotheses.

Keywords

Suboptimal choice Gambling Contrast Conditioned reinforcement Pigeons 

Notes

Funding

This study was not funded by a government or private grant.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Thomas R. Zentall declares that he has no conflict of interest. Danielle M. Andrews declares that she has no conflict of interest. Jacob P. Case declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas R. Zentall
    • 1
    Email author
  • Danielle M. Andrews
    • 1
  • Jacob P. Case
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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