Three groups of college students were asked to determine how points were earned in a task that allowed the assessment of response variability. All students received points for sequences of eight presses distributed across two keys (four presses on each key). One group received a point for each correct sequence, one group received points on a fixed-ratio 2 schedule, and one group received points on a random-ratio 2 schedule. There were no significant differences in nonverbal response variability across the three groups, and the fixed-ratio 2 and random-ratio 2 groups obtained equivalent point totals. However, participants in the random-ratio group were significantly more likely to write verbal descriptions of the task that made reference to performance-consequence relations that were not in effect. The results demonstrate that superstitious rule generation is more probable when consequences are random and not merely intermittent.
Heltzer, R. A., & Vyse, S. A. (1994). Intermittent consequences and problem solving: the experimental control of “superstitious” beliefs. Psychological Record, 44, 155-169.
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