The effects of interval duration on temporal tracking and alternation learning.
On cyclic-interval reinforcement schedules, animals typically show a postreinforcement pause that is a function of the immediately preceding time interval (temporal tracking). Animals, however, do not track single-alternation schedules-when two different intervals are presented in strict alternation on successive trials. In this experiment, pigeons were first trained with a cyclic schedule consisting of alternating blocks of 12 short intervals (5 s or 30 s) and 12 long intervals (180 s), followed by three different single-alternation interval schedules: (a) 30 s and 180 s, (b) 5 s and 180 s, and (c) 5 s and 30 s. Pigeons tracked both schedules with alternating blocks of 12 intervals. With the single-alternation schedules, when the short interval duration was 5 s, regardless of the duration of the longer interval, pigeons learned the alternation pattern, and their pause anticipated the upcoming interval. When the shorter interval was 30 s, even when the ratio of short to long intervals was kept at 6:1, pigeons did not initially show anticipatory pausing-a violation of the principle of timescale invariance.
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