Human variable ratio performance
Bizo, LA, Remington, B, D’Souza, LS, Heighway, SK, & Baston, C 2002, 'Human variable ratio performance', Learning and Motivation, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 411-432.
Publisher version of article available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0023-9690(02)00010-3
The generality of the mathematical principles of reinforcement (MPR) was tested with humans. In Experiment 1A, participants’ mouse clicks were reinforced according to a series of variable-ratio (VR) values. In one condition, a situated task was used (searching for treasure on a map presented via a PC monitor); in the other, abstract version of the task, participants clicked on a white screen. Under the “map” condition, response rates increased with increasing ratio value before decreasing with further ratio increases; under the “no-map” condition, response rates decreased linearly from a peak at the smallest ratio. In Experiment 1B, the pattern of responding was confirmed under the “map” conditions using a different set of ratio values. In Experiment 2, reinforcer magnitude was manipulated using the “map” context. Response rates did not differ significantly when large rather than small cash reinforcers were delivered according to a VR 30 but were significantly higher when large rather than small cash reinforcers were delivered according to a VR 120. Together these experiments offer qualified support for extending MPR to the behavior of human participants.