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Keywords:

  • automatic reinforcement;
  • behavioral economics;
  • progressive-ratio schedules;
  • reinforcer assessment

Recent research findings suggest that reinforcing stimuli may be differentially effective as response requirements increase. We extended this line of research by evaluating responding under increasing schedule requirements via progressive-ratio schedules and behavioral economic analyses. The differential effectiveness of preferred stimuli in treating destructive behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement also was examined. Results showed that one of two stimuli was associated with more responding under increasing schedule requirements for the 4 participants. Furthermore, stimuli associated with more responding under increasing schedule requirements generally were more effective in treating destructive behavior than stimuli associated with less responding. These data suggest that progressive-ratio schedules and behavioral economic analyses may be useful for developing a new technology for reinforcer identification. From a clinical perspective, these results suggest that two reinforcers may be similarly effective for low-effort tasks and differentially effective for high-effort tasks.