College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

Effects of Problem Difficulty and Reinforcer Quality on Time Allocated To Concurrent Arithmetic Problems

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 1996

Keywords

Problem Difficulty; Reinforcer Quality; Matching Law; Concurrent Schedules

Publication Title

Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis

ISSN

0021-8855

Volume

29

Issue/No.

1

Abstract

Students with learning difficulties participated in two studies that analyzed the effects of problem difficulty and reinforcer quality upon time allocated to two sets of arithmetic problems reinforced according to a concurrent variable-interval 30-s variable-interval 120-s schedule. In Study 1, high- and low-difficulty arithmetic problems were systematically combined with rich and lean concurrent schedules (nickels used as reinforcers) across conditions using a single-subject design. The pairing of the high-difficulty problems with the richer schedule failed to offset time allocated to that alternative. Study 2 investigated the interactive effects of problem difficulty and reinforcer quality (nickels vs. program money) upon time allocation to arithmetic problems maintained by the concurrent schedules of reinforcement. Unlike problem difficulty, the pairing of the lesser quality reinforcer (program money) with the richer schedule reduced the time allocated to that alternative. The magnitude of this effect was greatest when combined with the low-difficulty problems. These studies have important implications for a matching law analysis of asymmetrical reinforcement variables that influence time allocation.

DOI

10.1901/jaba.1996.29-11

Peer Reviewed

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