Teaching difficult response sequences using variability training and the differential outcomes effect

Previous research demonstrates that variability is a feature of operant behavior that can be reinforced. When variability is reinforced (on a VI60 schedule) concurrently to a difficult target behavior (on a CRF schedule), it facilitates the acquisition of the target behavior. The current study aimed to discover if this acquisition could be further facilitated with the addition of differential outcomes to the reinforcement obtained for the target behavior and for variable behaviors. Specifically, in the differential outcomes phase (DO), a 3 second delay was added before the delivery of reinforcement for variable responses, as opposed to reinforcement obtained immediately for both variable and target behaviors in the equal outcomes phase (EO). 4 experimentally naive Carneaux pigeons were placed in operant chambers and exposed to an ABC design consisting of a baseline phase, an equal outcomes phase and a differential outcomes phase. There was no clear effect on the speed of acquisition of the target sequence in the DO, EO or the baseline phase. Further research should use different stimulus features across phases and more difficult response sequences to investigate whether differential outcomes does affect the acquisition of a target sequence in a concurrent schedule setup such as this one.