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Episode 240 Dr Joe Layng pt 2 Schedules Of Reinforcement - Change the Schedule - Change the Behavior

This is part 2 of our conversation with Dr Joe Layng about schedules of reinforcement. Last week Joe got us started by describing the four basic types of schedules you are likely to encounter.

Fixed Interval schedules and variable Interval schedules are both time based.

Fix ratio and variable ratio schedules refer to the number of responses.

In this episode Joe moves beyond the basics of schedules to show us how complex the application and interpretation of schedules can become. He looks at how drugs interact with different schedules to either increase or decrease responses. The teaser is the effect may not be what you would expect.

Joe talks about the effect of schedules on social behavior - how you can change an animal’s behavior from cooperative to aggressive depending upon the schedule the animal is on.

It’s a head spinning conversation in part because there are so many ways to manipulate schedules. One of the main takeaways is how sensitive behavior is to the environment.

As Joe says in the episode: “What the study of schedules under controlled conditions shows us is how precisely the environment comes to control behavior. They show us how sensitive behavior is to these different environmental arrangements. The behavior you get depends on how you set it up the environment. You can get almost anything you want. It depends upon how you set it up. “

That’s an extraordinarily hopeful statement. So instead of feeling stuck with behavior you don’t like, Joe is offering us a different way of thinking about behavior. It isn’t fixed in the genes. It isn’t even fixed in previous history. Change the environment and rats that are social may become aggressive and aggressive rats may suddenly lend a helping paw pressing a lever. It’s all in the schedules. That can be either very frightening or very hopeful depending upon your perspective.


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