The form of timing distributions in pigeons under penalties for responding early

Ken Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The peak procedure was used in two experiments. Pigeons in the penalty group in Experiment 1 were rewarded with food in the first phase for the first peck after 12.5 sec had elapsed since the onset of a keylight. In the second phase, reward was withheld if the pigeons pecked within 6.25 sec after keylight onset. Responses in time were tabulated on occasional unrewarded tests in which the keylight was left on for 37.5 sec. Under the penalty contingencies, the response distribution in time remained nearly symmetric about the peak, while the spread of the distribution narrowed, and the time of peak responding came slightly earlier. The yoke group underwent a schedule of rewards similar to that for the penalty group, but without the penalty contingencies. Their response distributions remained similar throughout. The results of Experiment 1 were replicated in Experiment 2, which showed further that the changes due to the penalty contingencies did not generalize to the use of another key on which the penalty contingencies were not in effect. The narrower spread under the penalty contingencies is explained in terms of a change in threshold for when to start responding, and more weight being given to timing versus responding in the presence of the signal per se. No explanation was found for the change in the time of peak responding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-120
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Learning & Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes


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