Motivated to time: Effects of reinforcer devaluation and opportunity cost on interval timing

Tanya A. Gupta, Federico Sanabria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research suggests that interval timing performance is sensitive to reinforcer devaluation effects and to the rate of competing sources of reinforcement. The present study sought to replicate and account for these findings in rats. A self-paced concurrent fixed-interval (FI) random-ratio (RR) schedule of reinforcement was implemented in which the FI requirement varied across training conditions (12, 24, 48 s). The RR requirement—which imposed an opportunity cost to responding on the FI component—was adjusted so that it took about twice the FI requirement, on average, to complete it. Probe reinforcer devaluation (prefeeding) sessions were conducted at the end of each condition. To assess the effect of contextual reinforcement on timing performance, the RR requirement was removed before the end of the experiment. Consistent with prior findings, performance on the FI component tracked schedule requirement and displayed scalar invariance; the removal of the RR component yielded more premature FI responses. For some rats, prefeeding reduced the number of trials initiated without affecting timing performance; for other rats, prefeeding delayed responding on the FI component but had a weaker effect on trial initiation. These results support the notion that timing and motivational processes are separable, suggesting novel explanations for ostensible motivational effects on timing performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-320
Number of pages13
JournalLearning and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Choice
  • Interval timing
  • Motivation
  • Opportunity cost
  • Reinforcer devaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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