Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Instructional procedures that build high response rates are purported to have significant benefits over procedures that do not focus on fast responding (Binder, 1996). However, much of the research exploring rate-building procedures is confounded by two variables: rate of reinforcement and number of exposures (Doughty, Chase, & O'Shields, 2004). In six experiments, the present study examined the effects of three variables, rate of reinforcement, number of exposures, and rate of responding, on learning under rate-building procedures in pigeons. In Experiment 1, rate-building produced significantly better learning outcomes when compared to a rate-controlled condition with number of exposures held constant. In Experiments 2 and 3, significantly higher rates of reinforcement during rate-building conditions failed to produce differences in learning outcomes when response rates and number of exposures was held constant. In Experiment 4 rate-building produced significantly better learning outcomes, despite holding rate of reinforcement and number of exposures constant across rate-building and rate-controlled conditions. In Experiment 5 the arrangement of rate-controlled experimental procedures was changed to demonstrate the effect of decreasing latencies between responses within a trial (chain of responses) while controlling trial spacing. When rate-building was arranged within each trial, learning outcomes were significantly better than when rate of responding was controlled within and between trials. Experiment 6 demonstrated that the effect of rate-controlled conditions was due to decreased response rates and not an artifact of procedural manipulations. Overall, the results suggest that training responses to high rates enhances learning and support the use of rate-building procedures.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons