Aggressive responding in the laboratory maintained by the initiation of a provocation-free interval

Donald M. Dougherty, Don R. Cherek, Scott D. Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Four adults participated in an experiment designed to study how the duration of an interval free from provocation, following aggressive responding, affected the maintenance of such responding. In testing sessions, two response options were made available on separate buttons labeled "A" and "B." Pressing Button A 100 times incremented a point accumulation counter, and these points were later exchanged for money (one point = 10 cents). Pressing Button B 10 times subtracted a point from a fictitious other subject. These B button responses were defined as aggressive because they ostensibly presented an aversive stimulus (i.e., point subtraction) to another person. Subjects were provoked by subtracting points from their point counter at random intervals (ranging from 6 s to 120 s) and instructions attributed these point subtractions to the responding of the other subject. Button B responding could initiate periods free from provocation. Subjects were exposed to two provocation-free interval durations (5 s and 62.5 s) in order to determine what role the provocation-free interval had in maintaining aggressive responding. We found that brief (5 s) provocation-free intervals (a) can initially engender high rates of aggressive responding; but (b) cannot maintain aggressive responding during extended periods of exposure. These findings demonstrate the importance of the consequences of aggressive responding in determining the probability of an aggressive response following provocation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-600
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Record
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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