Timing with opportunity cost: Concurrent schedules of reinforcement improve peak timing

Federico Sanabria, Eric A. Thrailkill, Peter R. Killeen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The temporal generalization gradient produced by the peak-interval (PI) procedure reflects behavior under the control of positive reinforcement for responding after the criterial time, but shows negligible discouragement for early responses. The lack of consequences for premature responding may affect estimates of timing accuracy and precision in the PI procedure. In two experiments, we sought to encourage more accurate timing in pigeons by establishing an opportunity cost for such responding. Concurrent ratio and interval schedules of reinforcement reduced the dispersion of keypecking around the target time. A sequence of three response-rate states (low-high-low) characterized performance in individual trials. Opportunity cost substantially reduced the mean and standard deviation of the duration of the middle-high state that typically enveloped the target time, indicating improved temporal acuity. We suggest a model as a first-order approximation to timing with opportunity cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-229
Number of pages13
JournalLearning and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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