Evaluation of assessment methods for identifying social reinforcers


  • This paper was submitted to the Department of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Western New England University under supervision of the second author in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the doctoral degree in behavior analysis.
  • We thank Jason Bourret and Rachel Thompson for their feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.


Although researchers have evaluated assessment methods for identifying preferred tangible and edible items for children with developmental disabilities, few have evaluated assessment methods for identifying preferred topographies of attention. In the current study, indirect and direct assessments were conducted to identify 7 topographies of attention to include in subsequent preference and reinforcer assessments. Two different assessment formats were evaluated until reliable results were achieved with 1 of them. In both formats, a therapist presented photos that depicted the topographies of attention included in the stimulus array, and a control card (resulting in no consequence) was included. After evaluation of the 2 formats, a reinforcer assessment was conducted with a socially relevant target behavior (i.e., mands) to determine the predictive validity of the preference assessments.