Evaluating Functional Differences Between Positive and Negative Reinforcement Through Preference for Parameters of Sound Manipulation
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The present experiment examined whether identical manipulations of identical parameters of positive and negative sound reinforcement influenced human response allocation in different ways. Three undergraduate students participated. Progressive-ratio schedules were used to identify preferred and aversive sounds the contingent presentation (or removal) of which had similar reinforcing values. These reinforcers then were incorporated into concurrent-operant parameter sensitivity assessments (PSAs) to evaluate whether participant sensitivity to dimensions of certain parameters (i.e., rate, magnitude, delay) differed across positive and negative reinforcement procedures. Sensitivity was identical across the two procedures for two participants, but not for the third. These results demonstrate positive-reinforcement PSAs do not always predict differential sensitivity to parametric manipulations of negative reinforcement. The implication, that positive and negative processes can have functionally distinct effects, is discussed.