Examination of Reinforcement Magnitude on the Pharmacological Disruption of Fixed-Ratio Performance

Jonathan W. Pinkston, Brett C. Ginsburg, R. J. Lamb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Behavioral momentum theory proposes that operant behavior is the product of two separable processes: its rate of occurrence and its resistance to change. Generally speaking, operant situations providing more densely spaced or greater magnitudes of reinforcement should be more resistant to disruption. Attempts to disrupt ongoing behavior by manipulating the availability of food or deprivation level typically have supported the predictions of behavioral momentum. Tests with pharmacological disruptors, however, have yielded mixed results. Most investigations of pharmacological disruption of operant behavior have evaluated momentum across situations that differ in rate of reinforcement. The present experiment was an attempt to systematically replicate prior work, but under conditions of differing reinforcement magnitudes. Pigeons were trained to key peck on a multiple fixed-ratio 30 schedule of food presentation, where different components programmed 2-, 4-, or 8-s access to grain. Resistance to rate-decreasing effects of drugs was evaluated with several compounds drawn from distinct pharmacological classes: chlordiazepoxide, cocaine, clonidine, haloperidol, morphine, and ethanol were tested. Additionally, disruption by prefeeding and extinction was examined. Generally, resistance to change by drug administration was not modulated by reinforcement magnitude. Prefeeding and extinction tests, however, replicated previous work, indicating that our procedure was sensitive to more common disruptors. The results give additional support to the notion that pharmacological disruptors may not behave in the manner predicted by behavioral momentum theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-246
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • behavioral momentum
  • fixed ratio
  • key peck
  • pigeon
  • reinforcement magnitude
  • resistance to change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology


Dive into the research topics of 'Examination of Reinforcement Magnitude on the Pharmacological Disruption of Fixed-Ratio Performance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this