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Keywords:

  • delayed reinforcement;
  • translational research;
  • discrimination training;
  • acquisition;
  • intertrial interval;
  • developmental disabilities

We evaluated the discrimination acquisition of individuals with developmental disabilities under immediate and delayed reinforcement. In Experiment 1, discrimination between two alternatives was examined when reinforcement was immediate or delayed by 20 s, 30 s, or 40 s. In Experiment 2, discrimination between 2 alternatives was compared across an immediate reinforcement condition and a delayed reinforcement condition in which subjects could respond during the delay. In Experiment 3, discrimination among 4 alternatives was compared across immediate and delayed reinforcement. In Experiment 4, discrimination between 2 alternatives was examined when reinforcement was immediate and 0-s or 30-s intertrial intervals (ITI) were programmed. For most subjects, discrimination acquisition occurred under immediate reinforcement. However, for some subjects, introducing delays slowed or prevented discrimination acquisition under some conditions. Results from Experiment 4 suggest that longer ITIs cannot account for the lack of discrimination under delayed reinforcement.