Learning and Memory: The Behavioral and Biological Substrates

By Isidore Gormezano; Edward A. Wasserman | Go to book overview

5
Preference for Unpredictability is Reversed When Unpredictable Nonreward is Aversive: Procedures, Data, and Theories of Appetitive Observing Response Acquisition

Helen B. Daly State University of New York Collegeat Oswego

Pretend that you buy a lottery ticket every Friday. You soon discover that there are two types of tickets: a blue one and an orange one. Both types have a label that you can peel off. The words, YOU WIN, or the words, YOU LOSE, are written under the label on the blue ticket. The word, MAYBE, is written under the label on the orange ticket. Both tickets cost the same amount, the size of the prize is the same, the probability of winning is the same (e.g., 50%), and if you win you do not receive the prize until the following Friday for either ticket. Which ticket would you buy? Now pretend that one of your parents has died of Huntingston's chorea. This is an incurable disease that occurs in middle age and leads to a slow and agonizing death. If one of your parents had Huntingston's chorea, you have a 50% chance of carrying the gene and definitely becoming ill. There is a test to determine if you carry the gene. Would you take the test and ask for the results?

What these two examples have in common is a choice between an unpredictable versus a predictable situation. The first is an example of an appetitive reward, the second of an aversive reward. Wyckoff ( 1952) was one of the first to study these preferences and called them observing response experiments, because he showed that pigeons would step on a pedal to "observe" the stimuli that

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