Reinforcer magnitude attenuates apomorphine's effects on operant pecking

Jonathan W. Pinkston, R. J. Lamb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


When given to pigeons, the direct-acting dopamine agonist apomorphine elicits pecking. The response has been likened to foraging pecking because it bears remarkable similarity to foraging behavior, and it is enhanced by food deprivation. On the other hand, other data suggest the response is not related to foraging behavior and may even interfere with food ingestion. Although elicited pecking interferes with food capture, it may selectively alter procurement phases of feeding, which can be isolated in operant preparations. To explore the relation between operant and elicited pecking, we provided pigeons the opportunity to earn different reinforcer magnitudes during experimental sessions. During signaled components, each of 4 pigeons could earn 2-, 4-, or 8-s access to grain for a single peck made at the end of a 5-min interval. In general, responding increased as a function of reinforcer magnitude. Apomorphine increased pecking for 2 pigeons and decreased pecking for the other 2. In both cases, apomorphine was more potent under the component providing the smallest reinforcer magnitude. Analysis of the pattern of pecking across the interval indicated that behavior lost its temporal organization as dose increased. Because apomorphine-induced pecking varied inversely with reinforcer magnitude, we conclude that elicited pecks are not functionally related to food procurement. The data are consistent with the literature on behavioral resistance to change and suggest that the effects of apomorphine may be modulated by prevailing stimulus-reinforcer relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-282
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Apomorphine
  • Foraging
  • Key peck
  • Pigeon
  • Reinforcer magnitude
  • Resistance to change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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