Behavioral and pharmacological variables affecting risky choice in rats

Barbara J. Kaminski, Nancy A. Ator

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The effects of manipulations of response requirement, intertrial interval (ITI), and psychoactive drugs (ethanol, phencyclidine, and d-amphetamine) on lever choice under concurrent fixed-ratio schedules were investigated in rats. Responding on the "certain" lever produced three 45-mg pellets, whereas responding on the "risky" lever produced either 15 pellets (p = .33) or no pellets (p = .67). Rats earned all food during the session, which ended after 12 forced trials and 93 choice trials or 90 min, whichever occurred first. When the response requirement was increased from 1 to 16 and the ITI was 20 s, percentage of risky choice was inversely related to fixed-ratio value. When only a single response was required but the ITI was manipulated between 20 and 120 s (with maximum session duration held constant), percentage of risky choice was directly related to length of the ITI. The effects of the drugs were investigated first at an ITI of 20 s, when risky choice was low for most rats, and then at an ITI of 80 s, when risky choice was higher for most rats. Ethanol usually decreased risky choice. Phencyclidine did not usually affect risky choice when the ITI was 20 s but decreased it in half the rats when the ITI was 80 s. For d-amphetamine, the effects appeared to be related to baseline probability of risky choice; that is, low probabilities were increased and high probabilities were decreased. Although increase in risky choice as a function of the ITI is at variance with previous ITI data, it is consistent with foraging data showing that risk aversion decreases as food availability decreases. The pharmacological manipulations showed that drug effects on risky choice may be influenced by the baseline probability of risky choice, just as drug effects can be a function of baseline response rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-297
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2001


  • Drug effects on risky choice
  • Fixed-ratio schedule and risky choice
  • Foraging
  • Intertrial interval and risky choice
  • Lever press
  • Rat
  • Risk taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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