Discriminated timeout avoidance in pigeons: The roles of added stimuli

Anthony DeFulio, Timothy D. Hackenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Two experiments examined pigeons' postponement of a signaled extinction period, or timeout (TO), from an ongoing schedule of response-dependent food delivery. A concurrent-operant procedure was used in which responses on one (food) key produced food according to a variable-interval schedule and responses on a second (postponement) key delayed the next scheduled TO according to a response-TO (R-TO) interval. A series of response-independent stimulus changes on the food key temporally partitioned the R-TO into three equal segments (S1, S2, and S3). Postponement responses, in addition to postponing TO, also reinstated S1, the stimulus correlated with the greatest temporal distance from TO. In Experiment 1, the R-TO interval was manipulated systematically across blocks of sessions (conditions) at a given ratio of R-TO:TO duration. This R-TO:TO ratio was manipulated across blocks of conditions (phases). Postponement response rates varied inversely with R-TO interval in each phase. Changes in the R-TO:TO ratio did not produce consistent differences except at the 1:10 ratio for some pigeons, where it disrupted postponement responding in some conditions. Most of the postponement responses occurred in the presence of S2 and S3, the stimuli most proximal to TO, whereas most of the food-key responses occurred in S1. In Experiment 2, the R-TO contingencies were systematically manipulated in the presence of the time-correlated stimuli. In one set of conditions, the R-TO contingencies were made either ineffective or less effective in the presence of one or more stimuli. Postponement responses typically shifted to stimuli in the presence of which responses were relatively more effective. Postponement responses decreased markedly when the added stimuli were removed, and then recovered when the stimuli were reinstated. Results from both experiments indicate that the added stimuli in a discriminated TO-avoidance procedure serve predominately discriminative functions, delineating periods during which behavior is maximally effective. The results parallel those obtained in shock-avoidance procedures, providing further evidence that TO functions as an aversive stimulus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-71
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Concurrent operants
  • Discriminated timeout-avoidance
  • Key peck
  • Pigeon
  • Warning stimuli

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Psychology(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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