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An Analysis of Superstitious Behavior in the Rat

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Eighteen rats were exposed to non-response contingent food deliveries on one of six different fixed and variable interval schedules. All animals developed repeated, stereotyped patterns of behavior which they emitted between food deliveries, although these patterns showed more "drift in topography" and were more readily extinguished under the temporally variable schedules. Control animals developed no repeated behavior patterns during their exposure to the apparatus for an equal time in the absence of food. It is proposed that superstition represents an ideal paradigm for studying the interacting roles of contingency and contiguity in maintaining behavior, and that a contingency, per se, is effective only insofar as it specifies reliable contiguities between behavior and reinforcement.

Affiliations: 1: University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada; 2: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.A.


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