Rats' optimal choice behavior in a gambling-like task.


Facultad de Psicología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México D.F., 04510, Mexico. Electronic address: [Email]


Among the different procedures that model gambling behavior in non-human animals, the "suboptimal choice procedure" has been extensively employed for analyzing the impact of environmental cues on choice behavior. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that pigeons prefer an alternative that infrequently presents a stimulus that signals a larger amount of reinforcement, than another alternative that always presents a stimulus associated with a smaller amount of reinforcement, even though the net rate of reinforcement is lower in the former. In the present study, we tested rats in the magnitude version of the suboptimal choice procedure. Eight rats were given a choice between two alternatives: a) one in which a stimulus predicting the delivery of ten pellets was presented with probability (p) = 0.2 and a stimulus predicting zero pellets was presented with p = 0.8, and b) one in which either of two stimuli predicted the delivery of three pellets with p = 1.0. Contrary to the consistent and robust suboptimal behavior of pigeons, rats preferred the optimal alternative. This effect occurred despite the high index of discrimination of the stimuli associated with the different outcomes shown by the rats. The relevance of this result to the development of animal models of gambling behavior is discussed.


animal models,conditioned reinforcement,gambling,optimality,rats,suboptimal choice,

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