The discovery of novel actions is affected by very brief reinforcement delays and reinforcement modality

Walton, Tom; Thirkettle, Martin; Redgrave, Pete; Gurney, Kevin N. and Stafford, Tom (2013). The discovery of novel actions is affected by very brief reinforcement delays and reinforcement modality. Journal of Motor Behavior, 45(4) pp. 351–360.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00222895.2013.806108

Abstract

The authors investigated the ability of human participants to discover novel actions under conditions of delayed reinforcement. Participants used a joystick to search for a target indicated by visual or auditory reinforcement. Reinforcement delays of 75–150 ms were found to significantly impair action acquisition. They also found an effect of modality, with acquisition superior with auditory feedback. The duration at which delay was found to impede action discovery is, to the authors’ knowledge, shorter than that previously reported from work with operant and causal learning paradigms. The sensitivity to delay reported, and the difference between modalities, is consistent with accounts of action discovery that emphasize the importance of a time stamp in the motor record for solving the credit assignment problem.

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