Sensitivity to Reinforcement Rate: The Role of Attention Problems and Frequently Co-occurring Forms of Psychopathology Restricted; Files Only

Hackett, Ryan (Summer 2019)

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This study examined the assumption that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is associated with a weakened response to schedules of partial reinforcement, in which only some instances of a targeted behavior are reinforced (Luman, Oosterlaan, & Sergeant, 2005; Luman, Tripp, & Scheres, 2010). We examined this assumption in a community sample of adults that varied widely in multi-informant ratings of attention problems. Participants were ages 18–38, had no major neurological conditions, and were not taking psychotropic medications. Participants were presented with two conditions that each contained five pairs of independent, concurrently available schedules of random interval reinforcement (US $0.07/reinforcement). In one condition, the overall rate of reinforcement was lean. In the other condition, the overall rate of reinforcement was rich. We computed individual differences in sensitivity to reinforcement rate under both conditions using the generalized matching law (Baum, 1974; Davison & McCarthy, 1988; Herrnstein, 1961; McDowell, 2013). We examined these individual differences in reinforcement rate sensitivity as a function of attention problems and co-occurring forms of psychopathology. Consistent with theory, we found that attention problems had a large, statistically significant, negative correlation with sensitivity to rate of reinforcement in the lean condition. This relationship disappeared in the rich condition. The same pattern of effects was found for internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, although these effects failed to reach statistical significance. These results warrant further investigation via cumulative meta-analysis.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction. 1

1.1. ADHD.. 2

1.2. Heterogeneity of ADHD.. 3

1.3. Delay discounting. 4

1.4. The Generalized Matching Law.. 8

1.5. Evidence using the GML paradigm.. 10

1.6. Evidence outside the GML paradigm.. 13

1.7. Co-occurring psychopathology. 16

1.8. Objective of this dissertation. 17

Chapter 2: Methods. 21

2.1. Participants. 21

2.2. Sampling procedure. 21

2.3. Sample size, power, and precision. 24

2.4. Measures. 25

2.4.1. Adult Self-Report and Adult Behavior Checklist. 25

2.4.2. Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scales-IV. 26

2.4.3. Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, 2nd Edition. 27

2.4.4. Hypothetical delay discounting survey. 27

2.4.5. Concurrent RI schedules of reinforcement task. 28

2.5. Data collection. 32

2.6. Quality of measurements. 33

2.7. Data diagnostics. 35

2.8. Analytic strategy. 36

2.8.1. Primary hypotheses. 36

2.8.2. Secondary hypotheses. 37

2.8.3. Tertiary hypotheses. 37

2.8.4. Exploratory analyses. 37

Chapter 3: Results. 39

3.1. Recruitment and data collection. 39

3.2. Missing data. 40

3.3. Sample characteristics: Demographics. 41

3.4. Sample characteristics: Variables of interest 42

3.5. Primary hypotheses. 46

3.5.1. Attention problems in the lean condition. 46

3.5.2. Attention problems in the rich condition. 47

3.5.3. Attention problems across conditions. 47

3.6. Secondary hypotheses. 47

3.6.1. Delay discounting in the lean condition. 47

3.6.2. Delay discounting in the rich condition. 47

3.7. Tertiary hypotheses. 48

3.7.1. Internalizing in the lean condition. 48

3.7.2. Internalizing in the rich condition. 48

3.7.3. Externalizing in the lean condition. 48

3.7.4. Externalizing in the rich condition. 48

3.8. Exploratory analyses. 48

3.8.1. Intellectual functioning in the lean condition. 48

3.8.2. Intellectual functioning in the rich condition. 49

3.8.3. Parent/guardian educational attainment in the lean condition. 49

3.8.4. Parent/guardian educational attainment in the rich condition. 49

3.9. Regression diagnostics 49

Chapter 4: Discussion. 51

4.1. Support of original hypotheses. 51

4.2. Similarity to past findings and significance. 55

4.3. Limitations 56

4.4. Future directions. 58




Appendix A: Recruitment Ad. 96

Appendix B: Delay Discounting Survey. 97

Appendix C: Instructions for the Concurrent RI Schedules of Reinforcement Task. 113

Appendix D: Technical Specifications of all Computers Used to Run the Concurrent RI Schedules of Reinforcement Task 115

Appendix E: Single Informant Analyses. 117

Appendix F: Regression diagnostics. 120


Figure 2-1. PRESS-B user interface. 78

Figure 3-1. Recruitment flow diagram.. 79

Figure 3-2. Regression: ar lean and ar rich on AP T-score composites. 80

Figure 3-3. Regression: ar lean and ar rich on AUC $100. 81

Figure 3-4. Regression: ar lean and ar rich on AUC $10,000. 82

Figure 3-5. Regression: ar lean and ar rich on Internalizing T-score composites. 83

Figure 3-6. Regression: ar lean and ar rich on Externalizing T-score composites 84

Figure 3-7. Regression: ar lean and ar rich on KBIT-2 IQ standard scores. 85

Figure 3-8. Regression: ar lean and ar rich on parent/guardian education composites. 86


Table 2-1. Experimental conditions 87

Table 3-1. Median responses per reinforcement 88

Table 3-2. Sample demographics. 89

Table 3-3. Sample demographics relative to Metropolitan Statistical Area by age. 90

Table 3-4. Sample characteristics: Variables of interest 91

Table 3-5. Variables of interest stratified by r2 in the lean condition. 92

Table 3-6. Regression results. 93

Table 3-7. Correlation matrix. 94

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