College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

Preference for Unreliable Reinforcement in Children with Mental Retardation: The Role of Conditioned Reinforcement

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Winter 2000

Keywords

Conditioned Reinforcement; Unreliable Reinforcement; Choice; Delay to Reinforcement

Publication Title

Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis

ISSN

0021-8855

Volume

33

Issue/No.

4

Abstract

We examined the effects of conditioned reinforcement on children's choice between reliable (100%) and unreliable (50%) reinforcement under various stimulus conditions in a concurrent-chains procedure. The study was conducted across three experiments. Experiments 1 and 2 were conducted under conditions similar to basic laboratory work and consisted of participants selecting from one of two black boxes (placed on a table) that were correlated with different reinforcement schedules. In Experiment 3, we assessed a participant's preference for unreliable reinforcement during conditions in which the target responses were aggression and mands. Results of the three experiments showed that the participants preferred unreliable reinforcement under certain conditions. Findings are discussed regarding the role of specific stimuli (i.e., items correlated with a reinforcement schedule, adult reactions) as conditioned reinforcers and how they may influence children's preference for a response (e.g., aggression, self-injury) that produces reinforcement on a leaner schedule than a socially desirable response (e.g., mands).

DOI

10.1901/jaba.2000.33-533

Peer Reviewed

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