Sensitivity and bias under conditions of equal and unequal academic task difficulty

Derek D. Reed, Brian K. Martens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We conducted an experimental analysis of children's relative problem-completion rates across two workstations under conditions of equal (Experiment 1) and unequal (Experiment 2) problem difficulty. Results were described using the generalized matching equation and were evaluated for degree of schedule versus stimulus control. Experiment 1 involved a symmetrical choice arrangement in which the children could earn points exchangeable for rewards contingent on correct math problem completion. Points were delivered according to signaled variable-interval schedules at each workstation. For 2 children, relative rates of problem completion appeared to have been controlled by the schedule requirements in effect and matched relative rates of reinforcement, with sensitivity values near 1 and bias values near 0. Experiment 2 involved increasing the difficulty of math problems at one of the workstations. Sensitivity values for all 3 participants were near 1, but a substantial increase in bias toward the easier math problems was observed. This bias was possibly associated with responding at the more difficult workstation coming under stimulus control rather than schedule control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-52
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Choice
  • Effort
  • Generalized matching equation
  • Math problem completion
  • Schedule control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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