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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Assessing Animals’ Preferences: Concurrent Schedules of Reinforcement

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Three methods of assessing animals’ preferences are outlined: free-access, two-choice (e.g., T maze), and concurrent-schedules. While all give indications of relative preference between the choices, freeaccess and discrete-trial procedures tend to give exclusive preference and so do not indicate the degree of preference. Concurrent schedules give at least ordinal measures of the degree of preference. Data from cows, hens, and brushtail possums are used to illustrate the use of concurrent schedules to assess food preferences. The use of multiple-concurrent schedules to assess preference between sounds, and of concurrent-chain schedules to assess preference between waiting with or without another hen present are illustrated by studies with hens. Concurrent schedules, while not replacing other methods, are useful in evaluating preferences.

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