Transitional and steady-state choice behavior under an adjusting-delay schedule

L Valencia-Torres, S da Costa Araújo, C M Olarte Sanchez, S Body, C M Bradshaw, E Szabadi

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Twelve rats made repeated choices on an adjusting-delay schedule between a smaller reinforcer (A) that was delivered immediately after a response and a larger reinforcer (B) that was delivered after a delay which increased or decreased by 20% depending on the subject's choices in successive blocks of trials. In two phases of the experiment (100 sessions and 40 sessions), reinforcer sizes were selected which enabled theoretical parameters expressing the rate of delay discounting and sensitivity to reinforcer size to be estimated from the ratio of the indifference delays obtained in the two phases. Indifference delays, calculated from adjusting delays in the last 10 sessions of each phase, were shorter when the sizes of A and B were 14 and 25 µl of a 0.6 M sucrose solution than when they were 25 and 100 µl of the same solution. The ratio of the indifference delays was significantly smaller than that predicted on the basis of an assumed linear relation between reinforcer size and instantaneous reinforcer value, consistent with a previous proposal that this relation may be hyperbolic in form. Estimates of the rate of delay discounting based on the ratio of the two indifference delays (mean, 0.08 s(-1)) were similar to values obtained previously using different intertemporal choice protocols. Estimates of the size-sensitivity parameter (mean 113 µl) were similar to estimates recently derived from performance on progressive-ratio schedules. In both phases of the experiment, adjusting delays in successive blocks of trials were analyzed using the Fourier transform. The power spectrum obtained from individual rats had a dominant frequency that corresponded to a period of oscillation of the adjusting delay between 30 and 100 trial blocks (mean, 78). Power in the dominant frequency band was highest in the early sessions of the first phase and declined with extended training. It is suggested that this experimental protocol may have utility in neurobehavioral studies of intertemporal choice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-74
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • animals
  • association learning
  • choice behavior
  • conditioning, operant
  • discrimination learning
  • female
  • Fourier analysis
  • humans
  • linear models
  • memory, short-term
  • models, psychological
  • models, theoretical
  • motivation
  • psychomotor performance
  • rats
  • rats, wistar
  • reinforcement schedule
  • time perception


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