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RESPONSE LATENCY AS AN INDEX OF RESPONSE STRENGTH DURING FUNCTIONAL ANALYSES OF PROBLEM BEHAVIOR

Authors


  • This research is based on a thesis submitted by the first author to the University of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the MS degree and was supported in part by a grant from the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities. We thank Maureen Conroy and Timothy Vollmer for their helpful comments on a previous draft of the manuscript and Nicole Groskreutz and Leah Koehler for their assistance in conducting the research.

Address correspondence to Brian Iwata, Psychology Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611 (e-mail: iwata@ufl.edu).

Abstract

Dependent variables in research on problem behavior typically are based on measures of response repetition, but these measures may be problematic when behavior poses high risk or when its occurrence terminates a session. We examined response latency as the index of behavior during assessment. In Experiment 1, we compared response rate and latency to the first response under acquisition and maintenance conditions. In Experiment 2, we compared data from existing functional analyses when graphed as rate versus latency. In Experiment 3, we compared results from pairs of independent functional analyses. Sessions in the first analysis were terminated following the first occurrence of behavior, whereas sessions in the second analysis lasted for 10 min. Results of all three studies showed an inverse relation between rate and latency, indicating that latency might be a useful measure of responding when repeated occurrences of behavior are undesirable or impractical to arrange.

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