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Record: 1
Effects of inequity on human free-operant cooperative responding: A
validation study.
Spiga, Ralph
Cherek, Don R.
Psychological Record. Winter92, Vol. 42 Issue 1, p2917. 11p. 3
Charts, 6 Graphs.
Article
OPERANT behavior
REINFORCEMENT (Psychology)
Examines the effect of disparities in reinforcement frequency on
human free-operant cooperative responding. Role of cooperative
responding to the social interactions which establish and maintain
social groups and institutions; Proportion of cooperative responding;
Cooperative and independent response rates.
4150
0033-2933
9609040822
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<A href="http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
direct=true&db=bth&AN=9609040822&site=ehost-live">Effects of
inequity on human free-operant cooperative responding: A validation
study.</A>
Business Source Complete
EFFECTS OF INEQUITY ON HUMAN FREE-OPERANT COOPERATIVE
RESPONDING: A VALIDATION STUDY
The effect of disparities in reinforcement frequency on human free-operant cooperative responding was
examined. Points exchangeable for money maintained responding. Two schedule components
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alternated during a session. A random interval (Rl) 60-s schedule of point additions was in effect during
the first component and a concurrent R1 60-s R1 60-s schedule was in effect during the second
component. Subjects were instructed that the second component was initiated by another subject and
that they had the option of earning points by working with, or independently of, the other subject.
Independent responses earned points added to a counter marked "YOUR EARNINGS." Cooperative
responses earned points added simultaneously to a counter marked "YOUR EARNINGS" and
"OTHERS EARNINGS." Disparities of reinforcement were produced during the first component by
increasing the frequency of point additions to either the subject's or the fictitious other person's counter.
Disparities benefiting the fictitious other subject reduced cooperative responding, decreased
independent responding, and had no effect on nonsocial responding during the first component.
Disparities benefiting the subject increased cooperative responding in one subject.
Cooperative responding is fundamental to the social interactions which establish and maintain social
groups and institutions (Blau, 1964; Homans, 1961). In studies of cooperative behavior a cooperative
response has been operationally defined as occurring when the responses of two people jointly meet a
performance criterion that produces a reinforcer for both (Deutsch, 1973; Hake & Olvera, 1978; Marwell
& Schmitt, 1975). In the experiment reported in this paper we have operationally defined a "cooperative
response" as one producing reinforcers for the subject and for another ficititous person ostensibly
paired with the subject. The experiment had as its purpose the behavioral validation of an experimental
preparation which could be used to examine drug effects on cooperative behavior in future studies. This
was accomplished by determining whether the behavioral baseline established by this preparation was
sensitive to inequity, a significant social variable (Adams, 1965; Hake & Olvera, 1978; Hake, Vukelich,
& Olvera, 1975; Schmitt & Marwell, 1972).
Until recently the response of a dyed has been the unit of analysis of operant studies of cooperative
behavior (see Hake & Olvera, 1978). Schmitt (1987) examined the rate of an individual's cooperative
and competitive responding when both were concurrently available. Subjects were instructed that
cooperative responses required mutual responding. In this series of experiments subjects were only
able to see a counter indicating the other person's earnings. There was in fact no other subject. Instead
the presence of another subject who mediated cooperative reinforcers was established by instructions.
This modification permits greater experimental control of the rate and reinforcement of cooperative
responses. This is important because response and reinforcement rate have been found to modulate
drug effects (Seiden & Dykstra, 1977; Thompson & Schuster, 1968). Another modification provided a
period during which subjects "worked alone." In future studies this will permit examination of the
specificity of drug effects.
Equity can be operationally defined simply as correspondence in the distribution of reinforcers among
group members (Hake & Olvera, 1978; Hake et al., 1975). Hake et al. (1975) demonstrated that
cooperative responding decreases as a function of increasing inequities in reinforcer magnitude.
Schmitt and Marwell (1972) reported that subjects reduced this disparity by decreasing cooperative
responding or by responding on an alternative which transferred reinforcers (points) from one person to
another when cooperative responding of one individual produced a disparity in reinforcer magnitude
(points added to a counter). In this study equity is defined as correspondence in the number of
reinforcers (earnings) for the subjects and their fictitious counterparts. Inequity is operationally defined
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as reinforcer disparity.
In summary the purpose of this study is to determine whether cooperative responding is sensitive to
inequity. Inequity, defined as reinforcer disparity, was produced by manipulating the schedule of point
additions to the fictitious person's or subject's counter.
Method
Subjects
Six healthy, human males between the ages of 18 and 40 were recruited by newspaper advertisements
placed in the part-time employment section. Advertisements did not mention procedural details or
eligibility requirements of the study. Subjects reporting a history or current psychiatric disorder, medical
problem, current use of psychoactive substances including caffeine or nicotine were also excluded from
the study. These precautions were taken because research (e.g., Stitzer, McCaul, Bigelow, &Liebson,
1984) has demonstrated drug effects on human social behavior. Informed consent was obtained
following the instructions.
Apparatus
The subject's response console (HT-603, BRS/LVE, Beltsville, MD) consisted of three buttons, a panel
of three lights and two counters. All experimental events were controlled by an AIM-65 microcomputer
(Dynatem Inc., Irvine, CA). The panel was located in a soundproof, electrically isolated room. Masking
noise was provided by a ventilating fan running continuously during the session.
Instructions
General instructions. Each subject was asked to avoid drinking alcohol during the duration of the study.
They were instructed that expired breath alcohol samples would be obtained before sessions each day
and that the daily sessions would be canceled if the result was positive. Urine samples for drug
screening were collected daily. Positive expired breath alcohol or urine screen produced forfeiture of
bonuses for drug-free attendance. A second positive screen resulted in exclusion.
Preexperimental instructions. Subjects were read the following instructions:
You can earn money by pressing the A button when the A light is on and the B button when the B light
is on. Your B button is effective if and only if the person you are linked with illuminated your B light.
Button A presses earn points without the other person s help. Button B presses earn points for you and
the other person if you and the other person work together. The points you and the other person earn
will be accumulated on the counter marked "Your Earnings" and "Other's Earnings," respectively.
Experimental Contingencies
Two schedule components alternated during a session.
Work alone component. The session began with light A illuminated. While the A light was illuminated,
responses on the A button produced points on the counter marked "YOUR EARNINGS" on a random
interval (Rl) 60-s schedule of reinforcement. Reinforcement was signaled by illumination of a green light
above the counter. The green light was illuminated for 5 s followed by addition of one point. The A light
was off during illumination of the green light and while the point was added to the counter. Responses
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were not counted while the green light was illuminated.
During this component, points were also added to the counter marked "OTHER'S EARNINGS"
according to a random time (RT) 60-s schedule of reinforcement. Point additions were signaled by 5-s
illumination of the green light above the counter marked "OTHER'S EARNINGS" followed by addition of
one point. However, responses were effective during this 5-s period.
Choice component. The B light was intermittently illuminated on a RT 120-s schedule. Button A and
Button B responses were reinforced according to concurrent Rl 60-s Rl 60-s schedule of reinforcement
while the A and B lights were illuminated.
Button A (independent) responses produced point additions only to the counter marked "YOUR
EARNINGS." The A and B lights were not illuminated while point additions were being signaled by 5-s
illumination of the green light above the counter.
Button B (cooperative) responses were reinforced by simultaneous point additions to the counter
marked "YOUR EARNINGS" and "OTHER'S EARNINGS." Point additions were signaled by
simultaneous 5-s illumination of the green lights above both of these counters. The A and B lights were
not illuminated during the point addition .
Point additions could not occur for 20 s (change-over-delay, COD, 20 s) following switches from one
option to the other. The duration of the choice component was 2 min.
Daily protocol and session schedule. Subjects arrived at the subject waiting area of the Human
Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory at 0800 hours 5 days a week. A urine sample was obtained and
breath alcohol content (BAC) was measured using Alco Sensor III (Intoximeters, Inc.). Each day
subjects participated in six 30-min sessions. Sessions were conducted at the same times each day and
were separated by 30 min. During the 30-min periods between sessions, subjects were restricted to a
waiting room where they could watch television or read. Lunch was provided each day.
A questionnaire was administered following the sixth session. Subjects were asked (a) to estimate the
number of different individuals with whom they were paired (b) to describe the individual(s) and (c) to
state whether they, or the other person, had earned more points.
Experimental Design
The allocation of points to the subject or the fictitious other person was altered by manipulating the
parameters of the RT (fictitious person's earnings) and Rl (subject's earnings) schedule in effect during
the alone component. Table 1 lists the schedule parameters for responding and for point additions to
the counter marked "Other's Earnings" for each experimental condition.
Experimental conditions were altered when the standard deviation of the proportion of cooperative
responding across five sessions was 10% or less of the mean for those sessions. If responding on an
alternative ceased, the experimental conditions were altered the following session.
Results
Individual rating assessment. All subjects reported that they were paired with at least one person during
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the experimental day. Subjects reported being paired with more than one person too infrequently for
statistical analysis. During equity conditions, subjects reported that they earned "about the same" as
their fictitious counterparts.
At the end of the day all subjects reported that the other person earned the most points during
inequitable point distribution. When S-444 and S-452 earned more points than were added to the
counter marked "OTHER'S EARNINGS," they accurately reported that they earned the most points.
Proportion of cooperative responding. The proportion of cooperative responses during the choice
component was calculated by dividing total cooperative responses by the sum of cooperative and
independent responses. As Figure 1 illustrates when the other (fictitious) person ostensibly earned
more points than the subject, the proportion of cooperative responses for S-432 and S-439 decreased.
For S-424 inequity produced greater decreases in cooperative responding during the choice
components following exposure to equitable conditions. Subject S-436 was unaffected by reinforcer
disparities. Figure 2 shows that cooperative responding for S-444 and S-452 decreased during these
same experimental conditions.
Figure 2 shows that, when reinforcer disparities profited the subject rather than the fictitious other
person, the proportion of cooperative responses increased for S-444 from a baseline mean of 0.63 and
0.64, respectively, to 0.78 and 0.83. The proportion of cooperative responses returned to a mean of
0.62 following the last exposure to this inequitable reinforcer distribution. The cooperative responding of
S-452 was unaffected by this disparity.
Cooperative and independent response rates. The subject's rate of responding was calculated by
dividing the number of responses by total time spent in each component. The mean and standard error
of the mean for cooperative and independent responding for each experimental condition is provided in
Table 2. Table 2 illustrates that cooperative and independent response rate for S-424, S-432, and S-
439 was greater than independent response rate during equitable conditions. This relationship was
reversed when the other (fictitious) person ostensibly earned more than the subject. Subject S-424
exhibited a reversal of cooperative and independent response rate only on the second but not the first
exposure to equity conditions.
Table 3 shows that during equitable distribution of reinforcement cooperative response rate exceeded
independent response rate for S-444. Although S-452 exhibited this pattern on first exposure to equity,
no differences between cooperative and independent response rate were observed during subsequent
exposures to the equity condition.
When disparities of reinforcement benefited S-444, cooperative response rate increased and
independent response rate decreased relative to cooperative and independent response rates during
equitable conditions. Following return to equitable conditions cooperative and independent response
rates also returned to baseline values. Subject S-452's independent and cooperative response rate was
unaffected by reinforcer disparities benefiting the subject.
Cooperative response rate decreased and independent response rate increased for S-444 and S-452
when the disparities ostensibly benefited the fictitious subject.
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Alone response rate. For all subjects, alone response rate was unaffected by inequity. Mean alone
responding was 255, 300, 112, 255, 198, and 145 responses per minute for S-424, S-432, S-436, S-
439, S-444, and S-452, respectively.
Relative reinforcement frequency. The mean and standard error of the mean score difference for each
subject and experimental condition are provided in Tables 2 and 3. Score differences were calculated
by subtracting the ostensible net earnings of the fictitious other subject from the subject's net earnings.
Positive numbers indicate the subject's score was greater than the other's score. Negative numbers
indicate other's score was greater than the subject's score.
Subjects S-424, S-432, S-436, and S-439 ostensibly earned more points than the fictitious counterpart
during equity. These score differences were as great as score differences during the inequitable point
distribution benefiting the other person. Score differences during inequitable point distribution benefiting
the subject were substantially greater than score differences during equitable conditions.
Discussion
For S-424, S-432, S-439, S-444, and S-452: (1) The proportion of cooperative responses decreased,
(2) the cooperative response rate decreased, and (3) the independent response rate increased when
the fictitious other person earned more points than the subject. As inspection of Tables 2 and 3
demonstrates, these changes minimized accumulated point differences.
Only for S-444 did cooperative responding increase when earnings exceeded the earnings of the
fictitious other. As Table 3 illustrates the number of cooperative, mutual, reinforcers also increased.
However, this increase did not diminish the score difference between the subject and the fictitious
other.
The more general effects of inequities benefiting the other, as compared to the effects of inequities
benefiting the subject, may be explained by the asymmetric contingencies of cooperative and
independent responding during these conditions. When the other fictitious subject earned more than the
subject, responding exclusively on the independent alternative minimized score differences. However,
when the subject earned more than the other fictitious subject, responding exclusively on the
cooperative alternative increased the absolute number of reinforcers for the fictitious other while
maintaining score differences. Thus, in the absence of any effect on score differences cooperative
responding score differences profiting the subject are unlikely to increase. The behavioral effects
observed during inequitable conditions benefiting the fictitious other person are consistent with the
results of other studies demonstrating that disparities of reinforcer magnitude are an aversive stimulus
(Hake & Schmid, 1981; Matthews, 1977; Schmid & Hake, 1983; Schmitt & Marwell, 1972; Weiner,
1977). In this study, as in previous studies, accumulated point differences were minimized by either
decreasing cooperative responding or increasing independent responding, an alternative that reduced
score differences. In studies of cooperative responding and inequity, the cooperative response
produced disparities of reinforcement for paired subjects. Inequity in this study was not produced by the
subject's cooperative response. Nevertheless, cooperative responding decreased and independent
responding increased. This replicates earlier observations and extends previous research by
demonstrating that inequities produced independently of the cooperative relation do affect cooperative
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responding.
Following exposure to the inequitable distribution of points cooperative response rate for S-424, S-432,
and S-444 did not return to the levels observed during sessions when points were equitably distributed.
These results and those of Cherek, Spiga, Bennett, and Grabowski (1991), Cherek, Spiga, Steinberg,
and Kelly (1990), and Weiner (1969) demonstrate the influence of behavioral history on human operant
behavior.
Responding during the alone component, alone responding, was unaffected when contingent point
delivery increased or when the subject ostensibly earned less than the other. Our previous analysis
suggests that independent and cooperative response rate was controlled by relative score differences.
Because changes in alone response rate had no effect on these score differences, alone responding
thus did not increase or decrease. Hence, we observed the effect of point disparities on cooperative
and independent responding but not on alone, nonsocial, responding.
Cooperative contingencies are minimally defined when two or more individuals jointly meet a
performance criterion (Hake & Olvera, 1978, Schmitt & Marwell, 1972). The degree of response
interdependence has varied across studies. For example, Schmitt (1987) required subjects to respond
within 0.4 s of the other subject's response. In two-person Prisoner's Dilemma studies of cooperative
responding, subjects have the opportunity to respond without information about the other person's
behavior (Deutsch, 1973; Marwell, Ratcliff, 8 Schmitt, 1969). The procedures of the present study
resemble those of these latter studies. Subjects had no information of the responses of their fictitious
coactors and had only been instructed that they could earn points for themselves and the other person
by "working together." Despite these procedural differences cooperative responding in this study, as in
other studies adopting less stringent definitions of cooperative responding, was affected by point
disparity just as in studies adopting the more stringent criterion of response interdependence. This
suggests to us that cooperative responding generated by these differing preparations form a functional
response class. Procedures used in this study thus can be located on the same dimensions which
characterize prototypical operant studies of cooperative responding (Hake & Olvera, 1978; Hake &
Vukelich, 1972; Schmitt & Marwell, 1972).
The novel experimental procedures used in this study have two advantages recommending their use.
First, is the use of scheduled point additions to a second counter to mimic the presence of a fictitious
other person. Second, because a second person is not required, the study of cooperative, social
responding can be conducted for extended periods. This feature is particularly important in studies of
drug effects, for example, because establishing dose response curves requires maintaining responses
over many sessions.
In summary, the results of this study demonstrate that reinforcer disparity unfavorable to the subject
decreased cooperative and increased independent responding which in turn minimized score
differences. In this study instructions and the availability of a counter marked "OTHER'S EARNINGS"
were used to establish stimuli and responses as social. Under these conditions control by relative score
differences predominated. Although these results were obtained using procedures differing from
prototypical operant studies of cooperative behavior, our results systematically replicate the findings of
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these earlier studies (Marwell, Ratcliff, & Schmitt, 1969; Radinsky, 1969; Schmitt & Marwell, 1972).
Table 1
Summary of Reinforcement Contingencies During the
Alone Component by Experimental Condition
Equity Inequity Inequity
Subjects Other Benefits Subject Benefits
Subject Other Subject Other Subject Other
S-424 R160 RT60 R160 RT30 - -
S-432 R160 RT60 R160 RT30 - -
S-436 R160 RT60 R160 RT30 - -
S-439 R160 RT60 R160 RT30 - -
S-444 R160 RT60 R160 RT30 R130 RT60
S-452 R160 RT60 R160 RT30 R130 RT60
Table 2
Mean and Standard Error of Cooperative and Independent
Response Rate and Score Differences by Experimental Condition
Condition
Inequity Equity Inequity Equity
Subject Other Subject Other Subject
Benefits Benefits Benefits Benefits
Cooperative 384.63 446.60 196.00 272.60
(resp/min) (44.38)(*) (6.84) (43.59) (25.31)
S-424 Independent 66.67 7.00 267.20 70.60
(resp/min) (21.53) (2.02) (34.31) (10.70)
Score Difference 10.33 .81 -2.50 4.36
(1.10) (0.81) (1.10) (0.90)
Cooperative - 207.20 26.33 294.40
(resp/min) (42.21) (15.95) (28.13)
S-432 Independent - 57.60 301.67 125.20
(resp/min) (8.99) (12.51) (19.47)
Score Difference - 5.60 -4.69 6.20
(2.49) (0.66) (1.03)
Cooperative - 188.40 256.00 171.60
(resp/min) (15.25) (17.77) (25.69)
S-436 Independent - 105.60 136.80 155.20
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(resp/min) (16.26) (11.27) (19.47)
Score Difference - 5.92 -6.60 8.60
(1.00) (0.88) (1.75)
Cooperative - 375.20 72.00 423.00
(resp/min) (27.74) (30.94) (14.10)
S-439 Independent - 77.60 438.33 45.80
(resp/min) (22.62) (44.26) (9.88)
Score Difference - 5.40 -5.25 1.20
(0.93) (1.65) (0.58)
Inequity Equity
Subject Other Subject
Benefits Benefits
Cooperative - -
(resp/min) - -
S-424 Independent - -
(resp/min) - -
Score Difference - -
- -
Cooperative 53.60 -
(resp/min) (16.62)
S-432 Independent 310.60 -
(resp/min) (35.92) -
Score Difference -5.16 -
(1.80)
Cooperative 95.40 -
(resp/min) (20.22)
S-436 Independent 92.80 -
(resp/min) (20.79)
Score Difference -5.40 -
(1.05)
Cooperative 21.30 388.20
(resp/min) (8.99) (21.21)
S-439 Independent 491.67 46.00
(resp/min) (6.44) (13.53)
Score Difference -8.33 2.00
(2.31) (0.84)
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(*) Standard error of the mean is provided except for
conditions with only one session.
Table 3
Mean and Standard Error of Response Rates Number and
Score Differences by Experimental Condition
CONDITION
Equity Inequity Equity
Subject Subject
Benefits
Cooperative 202.20 288.60 233.50
(resp/min) (9.56) (6.11) (9.92)
S-444 Independent 127.17 81.40 131.00
(resp/min) (10.70)(*) (5.08) (16.15)
Score Difference 4.00 22.00 3.50
(0.78) (1.59) (0.87)
Cooperative 124.40 87.40 85.00
(resp/min) (11.57) (10.50) (4.69)
S-452 Independent 61.20 63.00 69.00
(resp/min) (8.99) (4.63) (6.38)
Score Difference 10.80 32.27 10.66
(0.85) (1.53) (0.92)
CONDITION
Inequity Equity Inequity
Subject Subject Other
Benefits Benefits
Cooperative 275.40 223.40 153.96
(resp/min) (18.25) (11.76) (12.18)
S-444 Independent 57.20 135.20 166.80
(resp/min) (15.01) (14.10) (9.67)
Score Difference 23.83 5.60 -9.72
(1.85) (1.29) (0.94)
Cooperative 68.00 74.20 16.00
(resp/min) (8.55) (4.46) (10.10)
S-452 Independent 59.00 53.40 147.00
(resp/min) (0.77) (0.35) (2.50)
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Score Difference 34.10 11.65 -3.50
(1.33) (1.40) (3.48)
Equity Inequity
Subject Other
Benefits
Cooperative 225.60 187.00
(resp/min) (12.14) (11.42)
S-444 Independent 105.80 129.40
(resp/min) (9.39) (7.30)
Score Difference 4.69 -7.00
(0.68) (1.74)
Cooperative 70.40 0.00
(resp/min) (2.97) -
S-452 Independent 62.00 153.00
(resp/min) (0.63) -
Score Difference 10.36 -8.00
(1.57) -
(*) Standard error of the mean is provided except
for conditions with only one session.
Figure 1. Cooperative responses during the choice component
expressed
as the proportion of cooperative and independent responses.
Equitable
and inequitable (other person earns more than subject) conditions
are
indicated by the abbreviation "EQ" and "INEQ/O," respectively.
Figure 2. Cooperative responding during the choice component
expressed as the
proportion of cooperative and independent responses. The
abbreviations "EQ,"
"INEQ/O," and "INEQ/S" indicate equity, inequity benefiting
fictitious other person, and
inequity benefiting subject, respectively.
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This research was supported by Grants DA03166 (D. R. Cherek, principal investigator) and DA06633
(Ralph Spiga, principal investigator) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Ralph Spiga was also
supported by Post-doctoral Fellowship DA05369 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse during this
period. We thank Lori Zunker for her special assistance and reviewers for their helpful comments.
Reprint requests may be sent to Ralph Spiga, Human Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory, Substance
Abuse Research Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Texas
Health Sciences Center, 1300 Moursund Avenue, Houston, TX 77030.
~~~~~~~~
By RALPH SPIGA, DON R. CHEREK, JOHN GRABOWSKI, and ROBERT H. BENNETT, University of
Texas Health Sciences Center
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