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FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS SCREENING FOR PROBLEM BEHAVIOR MAINTAINED BY AUTOMATIC REINFORCEMENT

Authors


Address correspondence to Brian Iwata, Psychology Department, 114 Psychology Building, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611 (e-mail: iwata@ufl.edu).

Abstract

A common finding in previous research is that problem behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement continues to occur in the alone condition of a functional analysis (FA), whereas behavior maintained by social reinforcement typically is extinguished. Thus, the alone condition may represent an efficient screening procedure when maintenance by automatic reinforcement is suspected. We conducted a series of 5-min alone (or no-interaction) probes for 30 cases of problem behavior and compared initial predictions of maintenance or extinction to outcomes obtained in subsequent FAs. Results indicated that data from the screening procedure accurately predicted that problem behavior was maintained by automatic reinforcement in 21 of 22 cases and by social reinforcement in 7 of 8 cases. Thus, results of the screening accurately predicted the function of problem behavior (social vs. automatic reinforcement) in 28 of 30 cases.

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