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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Hedonic Scaling in the Rat: Towards an Absolute Measure of Reinforcer Value

Status Current
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 12/01/2011
End Date 06/01/2012
Funding Source Undergraduate Research Grant
Funding Amount
Community Partner
Related Course
Last Updated 03/25/2012 12:57AM
Keywords rat


  Eric Murphy

Student Researchers
  Joe Mintz


The development of a valid and reliable operational mcasure of reinforcer value is an important objective in the field of behavior analysis (Miller, 1976). While some eperimental and quantitative methods have been developed to investigate the value of qualitatively similar
reinforcers in animals, the behavior of animals in response to qualitatively different reinforcers is still poorly understood (Killeen, Cate & Tran, 1993). Because reinforcers are multidimensional, a method to account for the effect of each dimension is in need of development. The method of paired comparison is a common way of determining a group of animals’ preferences for one reinforcer over another, but the information gained from such a procedure is limited in predictive power and scope (Thurstone, 1927). Baum’s (1974) generalized matching law, however, is an effective descriptor of operant choice behavior but is typically limited to cases in which the value of a given reinforcer is varied via the dimensions of amount or immediacy (Boutros, Elliffe & Davison, 2011). A combination of the two methods will allow for the computation of a ratio-level scale of reinforcer quality, opening the door to a molecular analysis of reinforcer properties and the formulation of new quantitative principles of behavior.

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