INTERRESPONSE-TIME PUNISHMENT: A BASIS FOR SHOCK-MAINTAINED BEHAVIOR
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Lever pressing of squirrel monkeys postponed brief electric shock according to a free-operant shock-postponement procedure. Pressing also produced shock with a probability proportional to the duration of the current interresponse time in some conditions, or to the fifth ordinally-preceding interresponse time in others. These conditions provided equal frequencies and temporal distributions of response-produced shocks either contingent on or independent of the current interresponse-time duration, respectively. Shock delivered contingent on the current interresponse-time duration resulted in shorter mean interresponse times and higher overall response rates that shock delivered independent of the current interresponse time. In subsequent conditions, response-produced shocks were sufficient to maintain responding following suspension of the postponement procedure only when those shocks were contingent on the current interresponse time. Presenting shock independent of the current interresponse time, conversely, suppressed response rate and ultimately led to cessation of responding in the absence of a conjoint shock-postponement procedure. These results demonstrate interresponse-time punishment in the absence of any indirect avoidance contingencies based on overall shock-frequency reduction, and strongly support similar interpretation at the more local level of shock-frequency reduction correlated with particular interresponse times. Differential punishment of long interresponse times also provides both an a priori basis for predicting whether a schedule of shock presentation will maintain or suppress responding and a framework for interpreting many of the functional relations between overall response rate and parameters of consequent shock presentation. Finally, these results and others indicate the importance of response-consequence contiguity above and beyong any notion of noncontiguous contingency in the control of behavior.
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