Extending mathematical principles of reinforcement into the domain of behavioral pharmacology

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Mathematical principles of reinforcement (MPR) attempts to integrate the empirical laws of reinforcement schedules that have accumulated over the decades. MPR is based on three principles: incentives excite behavior; there are temporal constraints on responding; and coupling of responses to reinforcers strengthens behavior [Behav. Brain Sci. 17 (1994) 105]. In the present paper MPR is extended into the domain of behavioral pharmacology, specifically to model the effects of D-amphetamine on operant behavior. In Experiment 1a, a five-component multiple fixed-ratio schedule was designed to generate behavioral baselines that were subsequently used to assess drug effect. In Experiments 1b and 1c, the quality and quantity of reinforcer were manipulated. The data generated by the three experiments were consistent with MPR. In Experiment 2, MPR was used to model the effects of D-amphetamine on rats responding under the five-component multiple fixed-ratio schedule. According to the model, the rate-decreasing effects of D-amphetamine were due primarily to motor disruption and secondarily to increased impulsivity; at the highest dosages, D-amphetamine also may have decreased the incentive value of food.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-88
Number of pages14
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Apr 28 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Amphetamine
  • Mathematical principles of reinforcement
  • Modeling
  • Ratio schedules
  • Rats


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