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DOES SUPPLEMENTARY REINFORCEMENT OF STEREOTYPY FACILITATE EXTINCTION?

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  • Preparation of this article was supported in part by a grant from the Florida Agency on Persons with Disabilities.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Claudia L. Dozier, Department of Applied Behavioral Science, University of Kansas, 1000 Sunnyside Ave. (Dole Human Development Center, Room 4043), Lawrence, Kansas 66045 (e-mail: cdozier@ku.edu).

Abstract

Results of several studies suggest that delivery of supplemental (social) reinforcement for stereotypy might facilitate its subsequent extinction. We examined this possibility with 9 subjects who engaged in stereotypy by including methodological refinements to ensure that (a) subjects' stereotypy was maintained in the absence of social consequences, (b) supplementary reinforcers were highly preferred and were shown to be reinforcers for some behavior, and (c) subjects were exposed to lengthy reinforcement and extinction conditions. In spite of these modifications, only 4 subjects' stereotypy increased when supplementary reinforcement was delivered contingent on stereotypy, and no subject's stereotypy decreased below initial baseline levels when social reinforcement was subsequently withheld. Decreases in stereotypy occurred with the implementation of noncontingent reinforcement. Thus, delivery of supplementary reinforcers either did not increase stereotypy or did not facilitate extinction of stereotypy maintained by automatic reinforcement. We discuss the practical and conceptual bases of these results with respect to our current understanding of function-based interventions.

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