The distribution of response bout lengths and its sensitivity to differential reinforcement

Ryan J. Brackney, Federico Sanabria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Response bouts are clusters of responses that occur in rapid succession and are punctuated by pauses during which the response does not occur. Under variable interval schedules of reinforcement, the number of responses in each bout (the bout length) varies among bouts. This experiment was aimed at determining whether the relative rate of reinforcement influenced the relative frequency of bouts of different lengths. Lever pressing in rats was reinforced under a tandem variable time (VT) 150-s fixed ratio (FR) X, where X could be 1 or 5 and varied randomly after each reinforcer. Two conditions were included: majority FR1 (mFR1) and majority FR5 (mFR5). In mFR1, 75% of reinforcers had a tandem FR requirement of 1 and 25% had a tandem FR requirement of 5; this distribution was reversed in mFR5. The dynamic bi-exponential refractory model of response bouts was fitted to the interresponse times (IRTs) in each condition. Model parameter estimates and IRTs were then used to simulate probable distributions of bout lengths. These distributions comprised a mixture of short geometrically-distributed bout lengths and long negative-binomially-distributed bout lengths. Long bouts were significantly longer in the mFR5 condition than in the mFR1 condition. In conjunction with previous data, the present study suggests that the prevalence of long bouts increases with the proportion of reinforcers with FR5 requirement. These results suggest that bouts of different lengths are sensitive to the rate at which they are reinforced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-185
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Bout length
  • Lever press
  • Modeling
  • Rats
  • Tandem schedules of reinforcement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'The distribution of response bout lengths and its sensitivity to differential reinforcement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this