COMPETITION BETWEEN NONCONTINGENT AND CONTINGENT REINFORCEMENT SCHEDULES DURING RESPONSE ACQUISITION

Authors


Department of Psychology, The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.

Abstract

We examined the extent to which noncontingent reinforcement (NCR), when used as treatment to reduce problem behavior, might interfere with differential reinforcement contingencies designed to strengthen alternative behavior. After conducting a functional analysis to identify the reinforcers maintaining 2 participants' self-injurious behavior (SIB), we delivered those reinforcers under dense NCR schedules. We delivered the same reinforcers concurrently under differential-reinforcement-of-alternative-behavior (DRA) contingencies in an attempt to strengthen replacement behaviors (mands). Results showed that the NCR plus DRA intervention was associated with a decrease in SIB but little or no increase in appropriate mands. In a subsequent phase, when the NCR schedule was thinned while the DRA schedule remained unchanged, SIB remained low and mands increased. These results suggest that dense NCR schedules may alter establishing operations that result in not only suppression of problem behavior but also interference with the acquisition of appropriate behavior. Thus, the strengthening of socially appropriate behaviors as replacements for problem behavior during NCR interventions might best be achieved if the NCR schedule is first thinned.

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