EFFECTS OF SOCIAL CONTEXT, REINFORCER PROBABILITY, AND REINFORCER MAGNITUDE ON HUMANS' CHOICES TO COMPETE OR NOT TO COMPETE

Donald M. Dougherty, Don R. Cherek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the first two experiments, subjects' choices to earn points (exchangeable for money) either by competing with a fictitious opponent or by not competing were studied. Buskist, Barry, Morgan, and Rossi's (1984) competitive fixed‐interval schedule was modified to include a second response option, a noncompetitive fixed‐interval schedule. After choosing to enter either option, the opportunity for reinforcers became available after the fixed‐interval's duration had elapsed. Under the no‐competition condition, points were always available after the interval had elapsed. Under the competition condition, points were available based on a predetermined probability of delivery. Experiments 1 and 2 examined how reinforcer probabilities and reinforcer magnitudes affected subjects' choices to compete. Several general conclusions can be made about the results: (a) Strong preferences to compete were observed at high and moderate reinforcer probabilities; (b) competing was observed even at very low reinforcer probabilities; (c) response rates were always higher in the competition component than in the no‐competition component; and (d) response rates and choices to compete were insensitive to reinforcer‐magnitude manipulations. In Experiment 3, the social context of this choice schedule was removed to determine whether the high levels of competing observed in the first two experiments were due to a response preference engendered by the social context provided by the experimenters through instructions. In contrast to the first two experiments, these subjects preferred the 60‐s fixed‐interval schedule (formerly the no‐competition option), indicating that the instructions themselves were responsible for the preference to compete. This choice paradigm may be useful to future researchers interested in the effects of other independent variables (e.g., drugs, social context, instructions) on competitive behavior. 1994 Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-148
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Volume62
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1994
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • button press
  • choice
  • competition
  • humans
  • instructions
  • reinforcer magnitude
  • reinforcer probability
  • social context

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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