Master of Arts (MA)
Reinforcers that maintain problem behavior often are an integral part of treatment with differential reinforcement. Basic research suggests that various parameters of reinforcement (e.g., rate, quality, delay, and magnitude) may influence treatment outcomes. Germane to the current study, the voluminous basic literature on reinforcement magnitude indicates that this parameter may influence responding, especially in choice situations or when response requirements are systematically increased over time. Although consideration of reinforcer magnitude may be important for maximizing treatment effectiveness, relatively little is known about children’s preference for different magnitudes of reinforcement or the extent to which relative preference would be related to differences in reinforcer potency. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the basic relation between reinforcer magnitude, preference, and potency by drawing on the procedures and results of basic research in this area. Participants were two children who engaged in problem behavior maintained by access to tangible items, attention, or escape from demands. Results of a concurrent operants preference assessment indicated that one participant preferred a larger magnitude of reinforcement across multiple reinforcers. Next, a progressive ratio reinforcer assessment indicated a positive relationship between preference and reinforcer potency for two out of three positive reinforcer evaluations and no clear relationship for negative reinforcement. In general, results for positive reinforcement supported the hypothesis that individuals would show a preference for different magnitudes of reinforcement and that preference would predict relative reinforcer potency. Collectively, the preference and reinforcer assessments provide preliminary evidence regarding the relationship between preference and potency of different magnitudes of reinforcement and suggest that for positive reinforcement, preferred magnitudes of reinforcement may yield stronger reinforcement effects.
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Trosclair, Nicole M., "Reinforcement magnitude: an evaluation of preference and reinforcer potency" (2005). LSU Master's Theses. 216.