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Keywords:

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

We extended research on the role of noncontingent positive reinforcement following a functional analysis of attention-maintained self-injurious behavior to self-injury maintained by negative reinforcement in 2 young males with developmental disabilities. During a pretreatment functional analysis, each participant's self-injury was shown to be differentially sensitive to escape from instructional activities as negative reinforcement. During noncontingent escape, escape from learning activities was provided on a fixed-time schedule that was not influenced by the participant's behavior. One participant was also exposed to differential negative reinforcement of other behavior. During this condition, escape from instructional activities was provided contingent on the omission of self-injury for prespecified intervals. Results showed that the provision of escape, even when noncontingent, resulted in significant reductions in self-injury. These results are particularly interesting in light of the experimental history of noncontingent reinforcement as a control rather than as a therapeutic procedure. Noncontingent escape is discussed as a form of extinction that may be less likely than other forms of extinction to produce severe side effects.