Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Jack Michael

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard Malott

Third Advisor

Dr. William Redmon

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Bradley Hayden


Skinner (1938) dealt with motivation in terms of the operations of deprivation/satiation and aversive stimulation. Later, Keller and Schoenfeld (1950) introduced the term establishing operation to refer to such motivative variables, and Michael (1982, and in press) expanded the Keller and Schoenfeld (1950) concept to include a type of learned motivative variable not explicitly identified in the earlier treatments. The purpose of the present research is the laboratory demonstration of this form of motivation, that Michael referred to as a transitive conditioned establishing operation (CEO).

The present experiment used a treadle-key procedure similar to that of Ailing (1990), but with a small variable ratio of responses required to produce the conditioned reinforcer rather a single response as in the Ailing procedure. The behavior of four experimentally naive pigeons was studied in standard operant chambers, with the experimental contingencies arranged by a computer. After preliminary training, three phases were introduced. In Phase 1, the CEO condition, a buzzer came on and off on a variable-time basis with an average time of one minute. For two subjects when the buzzer was on, responding on a variable ratio 6 on the treadle changed the treadle light from white to red for 5 s, and a key peck within 5 s resulted in food reinforcement. When the buzzer was off, responding on the treadle changed the treadle light from white to red, but a key peck did not produce reinforcement, and after 5 s the treadle light changed back to white. For the other two subjects the relation between food reinforcement and the presence/absence of the buzzer was reversed. In Phase 2 the i procedure was exactly the same except that the completion of the required response ratio on the treadle set up the food reinforcement for a key peck, but did not produce the light change. Phase 3 was a return to the conditions of Phase 1.

The major dependent variable was the treadle-pressing response rate, and all birds showed much higher rates of treadle pressing in the CEO than in the nonCEO condition. In Phase 2, when the conditioned reinforcer was no longer produced by the treadle pressing, it was expected that the treadle performance would deteriorate, but this was seen clearly in only one of the birds. The other three subjects had probably developed a pattern of pressing the treadle several times, then pecking the key, and if reinforcement were not delivered, returning to the treadle for more presses, etc. When the treadle light change was omitted, this pattern would have been successful in producing food reinforcement. Once again, an effort to show that a stimulus was functioning as CEO had failed to unambiguously eliminate the possibility that the stimulus was simply a discriminative stimulus for a complex pattern or chain of behavior, because that pattern was differentially related to food reinforcement

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons