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Mathematical principles of reinforcement

  • Peter R. Killeen (a1)
Abstract

Effective conditioning requires a correlation between the experimenter's definition of a response and an organism's, but an animal's perception of its behavior differs from ours. These experiments explore various definitions of the response, using the slopes of learning curves to infer which comes closest to the organism's definition. The resulting exponentially weighted moving average provides a model of memory that is used to ground a quantitative theory of reinforcement. The theory assumes that: incentives excite behavior and focus the excitement on responses that are contemporaneous in memory. The correlation between the organism's memory and the behavior measured by the experimenter is given by coupling coefficients, which are derived for various schedules of reinforcement. The coupling coefficients for simple schedules may be concatenated to predict the effects of complex schedules. The coefficients are inserted into a generic model of arousal and temporal constraint to predict response rates under any scheduling arrangement. The theory posits a response-indexed decay of memory, not a time-indexed one. It requires that incentives displace memory for the responses that occur before them, and may truncate the representation of the response that brings them about. As a contiguity-weighted correlation model, it bridges opposing views of the reinforcement process. By placing the short-term memory of behavior in so central a role, it provides a behavioral account of a key cognitive process.

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