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Keywords:

  • conditioning;
  • developmental disabilities;
  • imposed variability;
  • longitudinal assessment;
  • preference assessment;
  • preference stability;
  • satiation

Results of longitudinal studies suggest that the stability of preferences varies across individuals, although it is unclear what variables account for these differences. We extended this work by conducting periodic assessments of preference for leisure activities over 3 to 6 months with 10 adults with developmental disabilities. Although previous research has collectively shown that preferences identified via repeated assessment are highly variable, our results showed that preferences were relatively stable for the majority (80%) of participants. In an attempt to identify some environmental determinants of shifts in preference, we provided extended daily access to high-preference items (preference-weakening manipulation) and paired access to low-preference items with social and edible putative reinforcers during brief sessions (preference-strengthening manipulation). Preference assessments continued over the course of these manipulations with 2 participants. Results showed that changes in preference across time could be produced systematically and suggest that naturally occurring changes in establishing operations or conditioning histories contribute to temporal shifts in preference. Implications for preference assessments, reinforcer usage, and planned attempts to change preferences are discussed.