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Keywords:

  • differential reinforcement;
  • noncontingent reinforcement;
  • functional analysis;
  • self-injurious behavior

Because there are potentially serious limitations to differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO) (which is probably the most widely used treatment procedure for behavior problems), we examined an alternative procedure—noncontingent reinforcement (NCR). Three females with developmental disabilities, all of whom engaged in severe self-injurious behavior, participated. During a pretreatment functional analysis, each subject's self-injury was shown to be differentially sensitive to social attention as a maintaining consequence. Next, each subject was exposed to a DRO treatment and an NCR treatment. During DRO, attention was delivered contingent on the absence of self-injury for prespecified intervals. During NCR, attention was delivered on a fixed-time schedule that was not influenced by the subject's behavior. Results showed that both procedures were highly effective in reducing self-injury, probably because the functional reinforcer for self-injury was used during treatment. Furthermore, there was evidence that NCR attenuated several of the limitations of DRO. These results are particularly interesting in light of the long experimental history of NCR as a control rather than as a therapeutic procedure.