Choice behavior in college students was examined in two experiments using the concurrent‐chains procedure. In both experiments, the concurrent chains were presented on a microcomputer in the form of an air‐defense game in which subjects used two radar systems to detect and subsequently destroy enemy aircraft. Access to one of two radar systems was controlled by a pair of independent concurrent variable‐interval 60‐s schedules with a 4‐s changeover delay always in effect. In the terminal link, the appearance of an enemy aircraft was determined by a pair of differentially segmented fixed‐time schedules (Experiment 1) or fixed‐interval schedules (Experiment 2) of equal overall duration. In Experiment 1, the terminal‐link duration was either 20 s or 40 s, and subjects preferred the unsegmented to the segmented intervals. In Experiment 2, the duration was either 10 s or 60 s, and the reinforcement contingencies required responding during the terminal link. Prior to the reinstatement of the initial link, subjects estimated the duration of the terminal‐link schedule. Segmentation affected choice in the 60‐s conditions but not in the 10‐s ones. Preference for the unsegmented schedule was correlated with an overestimation of the durations for the segmented schedules. These results replicated those found in animal experiments and support the notion of increasing the psychological distance to reward by segmenting a time‐based schedule of reinforcement.
Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior – Wiley
Published: May 1, 1989
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