Date of Award

5-1-2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Habib, Reza

Second Advisor

Young, Michael

Abstract

In everyday decision making, people often face decisions with outcomes that differ on multiple dimensions. The tradeoff in preferences between magnitude of reinforcement, delay to reinforcement, and probability of reinforcement is a fundamental concern in the decision making literature. Yet, the relative impacts of probability of reinforcement, delay to reinforcement, and magnitude of reinforcement have not been studied together even though researchers have been advocating for the combined study of these variables for decades. The proposed project was designed to determine the relative impacts of magnitude of reinforcement and probability of reinforcement when they were both increasing over a 10 s delay to maximum charge. A first-person shooter video game was adapted for the study of choice when outcome magnitude and probability of reinforcement were increasing either simultaneously (Experiment 1) or separately (Experiment 2) over a 10 s delay. Experiment 1 showed that participants waited longer to ensure a greater probability of reinforcement than to ensure a greater magnitude of reinforcement. The results of Experiment 2 indicated that probability of reinforcement had a stronger impact on behavior than magnitude of reinforcement when they were increasing separately. These experiments indicated that probability of reinforcement outweighed magnitude of reinforcement by a ratio of approximately 3:1.

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