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Economic context and pigeons' risk-taking: an integrative approach

  • Author(s): Goldshmidt, J N;
  • Fantino, Edmund
  • et al.

The present work tested pigeons' (Columba livia) risk sensitivity to changes in resource availability in the concurrent-chains choice procedure. Subjects were provided choices, generally between variable-ratio (VR) and fixed-ratio (FR) outcome schedules with equal or different mean values. Predictions from ecology's risk sensitivity, behavioral economic's rate maximization, and psychology's delay-reduction theory were contrasted under settings where budget was adversely affected by one of three manipulations in seven experiments: (1) session length was dramatically reduced; (2) choice-phase duration was substantially increased by increasing the response requirements in the choice phase, or (3) outcome duration was significantly increased by increasing the response requirements in the outcome phase while holding session length constant. Although preference measures were sensitive to every budget manipulation, the nature of the changes observed were dependent upon the manner in which resource availability was manipulated and the choice alternatives offered. For example, choice was affected in an opposite manner when budget was adversely altered by lengthening choice duration ("search time") as opposed to lengthening outcome duration ("handling time"). Findings revealed partial support for pigeons' sensitivity both to changes in budget and to changes in conditioned reinforcer value. The overall pattern of results thus favors an integrative approach to describing the effect of economic context on general risk sensitivity. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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