2018: Andrew Nuzzolilli

Western New England University

Researchers have evaluated the effects of schedule transitions involving differing amounts of reinforcement on fixed-ratio pausing in both human and non-human subjects. Empirical findings suggest longer pausing during signaled transitions between rich and lean schedules of reinforcement, and that these transitions function as aversive events. Andrew Nuzzolilli’s research will make use of a computer-based task to examine these schedule transition effects with college students. Under the advisement of Dr. Jonathan Pinkston, this research will satisfy Andrew’s dissertation requirement for a Ph.D. in behavior analysis. The SABA grant will be used to compensate participants for their time and effort, as this work requires multiple sessions at steady state to draw conclusions.


Up to 40 participants will press a force transducer for brief access to television shows. Andrew will systematically evaluate the effects of disparities in ratio and force requirements on fixed-ratio pausing across multiple experiments. A multiple schedule will be used to juxtapose differing schedules of reinforcement. The use of a force transducer allows for detailed measurement of both temporal and physical aspects of responding that would otherwise go unobserved when using traditional equipment, such as a lever or mouse and keyboard. No study to date has made use of a force transducer to measure these aspects of responding in schedule transition research.


The broader implication of this research is that pausing, delaying, postponing, or otherwise avoiding does not occur just in the context of biologically obvious aversive stimuli, but that schedules of positive reinforcement can engender these effects. An understanding of these factors can help address problems of social significance, such as procrastination and decreased productivity in the workplace.  


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