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Although pre-ratio pausing is a characteristic feature of fixed
ratio (FR) schedules of reinforcement, pausing reduces the rate at
which reinforcement is earned. To determine whether FR pausing
can be altered, 7 rats were studied with procedures in which long
pauses were punished with time-out from reinforcement. A general
finding was that pausing is modifiable. However, tendencies to pause
were highly resistant to change, and for some animals under some
conditions efforts to reduce pausing were unsuccessful. Moreover,
despite the fact that reduced pausing was accompanied by increased
reinforcement rates, long pauses resumed when the punishment
contingency was removed. Two sets of factors were proposed as
contributors to these mixed results: the relatively small gain in
reinforcement rates that accompanied reduced pausing, and the
possible status of pre-ratio pausing as a form of elicited, rather than
operant, behavior.