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How should periods without social interaction be scheduled? Children's preference for practical schedules of positive reinforcement



Several studies have shown that children prefer contingent reinforcement (CR) rather than yoked noncontingent reinforcement (NCR) when continuous reinforcement is programmed in the CR schedule. Preference has not, however, been evaluated for practical schedules that involve CR. In Study 1, we assessed 5 children's preference for obtaining social interaction via a multiple schedule (periods of fixed-ratio 1 reinforcement alternating with periods of extinction), a briefly signaled delayed reinforcement schedule, and an NCR schedule. The multiple schedule promoted the most efficient level of responding. In general, children chose to experience the multiple schedule and avoided the delay and NCR schedules, indicating that they preferred multiple schedules as the means to arrange practical schedules of social interaction. In Study 2, we evaluated potential controlling variables that influenced 1 child's preference for the multiple schedule and found that the strong positive contingency was the primary variable.