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Effects of alternative responses on behavior exposed to noncontingent reinforcement


  • This study was funded in part by a visiting scholar award to the first author at the University of Florida from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (José Castillejo Mobility Program, BOE no. 267, p. 46011).

Address correspondence to Javier Virués Ortega, University of Manitoba, Psychology Department, P518 Duff Roblin Bldg, 190 Dysart Rd., Winnipeg MB R3T, Canada (e-mail:


Noncontingent reinforcement (NCR) may decrease the frequency of behavior by either inducing satiation or terminating the response–reinforcer contingency (extinction). Another possibility is that the target behavior is replaced by other behaviors maintained by preexisting contingencies. We conducted 2 experiments in which we allowed access to a target response and several alternatives. In Experiment 1, NCR, preceded by contingent reinforcement (CR) for the target, produced a reduction in the target and an increase in the alternatives in 2 subjects with intellectual disabilities. To separate the effects of NCR from the availability of alternative responses, we presented CR conditions to 4 subjects in Experiment 2 with and without the availability of alternatives. The availability of alternatives decreased the target in only 1 subject. Subsequent manipulations showed that reductions in the target were solely a function of NCR for the other 3 subjects. Thus, response competition may have marginal effects on response suppression during NCR.