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Effects of two variations of differential reinforcement on prompt dependency


  • We thank the New England Center for Children (NECC) and Northeastern University for their contributions to the field of applied behavior analysis. We also extend appreciation to Amy Constantine and Pamela Sinclair for their help with data collection. Catia Cividini-Motta and William H. Ahearn are now at Western New England University as well as NECC.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Catia Cividini-Motta, The New England Center for Children, 33 Turnpike Road, Southborough, Massachusetts 01772 (e-mail:


Prompt dependency is an often referenced but little studied problem. The current study evaluated 2 iterations of differential reinforcement (DR) for overcoming prompt dependency and facilitating skill acquisition with 4 individuals who had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Preference and reinforcer assessments were conducted to determine moderately and highly preferred reinforcers for each participant. Three sets of word–picture relations were taught to each of the participants using 1 of 3 DR procedures. Reinforcement for independent responses entailed delivery of the highest preference stimulus across all 3 procedures. Consequences for prompted responses entailed delivery of the highest preference stimulus (no DR), delivery of the moderately preferred stimulus (DR high/moderate), or no delivery of reinforcers (DR high/extinction). Results indicated that the DR high/moderate condition was most effective for 3 of 4 participants, whereas the DR high/extinction condition was most effective for the remaining participant.