ASSESSING INFLUENTIAL DIMENSIONS OF REINFORCERS ON CHOICE IN STUDENTS WITH SERIOUS EMOTIONAL DISTURBANCE

Authors


Psychology in Education Division, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6216

Abstract

We examined how reinforcer rate, quality, delay, and response effort combined to influence the choices of 6 youths with learning and behavior difficulties, and the viability of an assessment methodology derived from matching theory for determining differential responsiveness to those reinforcer and response dimensions. The students were given two concurrent sets of math problems that were equal on two dimensions but competed on two other dimensions (e.g., one set yielded higher rate and lower quality reinforcement than the other). Competing dimensions were counterbalanced across the six conditions of the initial assessment phase, permitting assessment of each dimension on time allocation. The conditions resulting in the most and least time allocated to one problem set alternative relative to the other were then replicated. Time allocated to each of the problems within sets was differentially affected by the reinforcer and/or response dimensions, with allocation patterns varying across students. The results are discussed in the context of implications for the design of treatments and extrapolations from basic research on matching and behavioral economics.

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