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Keywords:

  • extinction;
  • functional analysis;
  • noncontingent reinforcement;
  • satiation;
  • self-injury

Noncontingent reinforcement (NCR), a response-independent schedule for the delivery of reinforcement, has been found to be effective in reducing behavior when the reinforcer delivered is responsible for behavioral maintenance. In this study, dense and lean schedules of response-independent attention were compared to determine whether it is necessary to begin with a dense schedule before fading to a lean schedule, or whether treatment would be as effective using a lean schedule at the outset. The subjects were 5-year-old identical quadruplets diagnosed with mental retardation and pervasive developmental disorder who displayed destructive behavior that was maintained by social attention. NCR was selected partially because it is not very labor intensive and could be implemented by a single mother simultaneously with all 4 children. Using a combination multielement and multiple baseline design, it was found that (a) a dense schedule of response-independent reinforcement (i.e., fixed-time 10 s) resulted in immediate and dramatic reductions in destructive behavior with no evidence of an extinction burst, and (b) an equivalent reduction in destructive behavior was achieved with a lean schedule of response-independent reinforcement (fixed-time 5 min) only after a systematic fading procedure was implemented. The findings suggest that the effectiveness of NCR may be dependent on the use of a dense schedule initially, and that systematic fading can increase the effectiveness of a lean schedule.