Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #333
CE Offered: BACB
Operant Response Variability: Further Examination of Lag Reinforcement Schedules
Monday, May 28, 2012
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
609 (Convention Center)
Area: EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Tracy L. Kettering (Bancroft)
Discussant: Allen Neuringer (Reed College)
CE Instructor: Tracy L. Kettering, Ph.D.
Abstract: Reinforcement contingencies can be applied to any operant dimension of behavior, including response repetition and variability (Neuringer, 2002). Lag schedules of reinforcement provide contingencies to a specific response dependent on the relation of the response to previous responses. Responses must vary along some topography from previous responses to produce reinforcement. This symposium further examines the applications of Lag schedules with human participants in a series of translational investigations. In the first study, a second-order Lag schedule was used to target increases in variable responses across session to decrease within session response switching. In the second study, a negative reinforcement contingency was applied within one component of a multiple schedule to increase response variation. This study also examined the stimulus control over response patterns. Finally, the third study used a multiple schedule to bring variable responding under stimulus control. Generalization of variable responding in the presence of the stimulus was then assessed under extinction conditions with a novel task. Implications of the experimental findings to the use of Lag schedules in applied settings will be discussed.
Keyword(s): Behavioral Variability, Lag Schedules, Response Generalization, Stimulus Control

Increasing Response Variability With a Second-Order LAG Schedule

JONATHAN W. IVY (Mercyhurst College), Julie Payne (The Ohio State University), Nancy A. Neef (The Ohio State University)

Individuals with autism often engage in rigid or stereotyped patterns of behavior. A multiple baseline across participants design was used to examine the effects of an across session (second-order) lag schedule on the choice of leisure activities of three elementary students diagnosed with autism. During baseline, two participants showed low levels of response variability when choosing a leisure activity and one participant displayed a pattern of frequent within session switching. Variable responding across sessions increased for all participants following the implementation of the across session lag schedule of reinforcement. During a non-treatment follow-up, one participant continued to respond according to the Lag 2 schedule and one participant engaged in reparative responding. This study supports the use of lag schedules of reinforcement to increase response variability in students with autism. Additionally, it addresses the limitation of frequent within-session switching by utilizing an across session schedule.


Establishing Stimulus Control Over Variable Responding in Humans Through Negative Reinforcement

NEAL MILLER (The Ohio State University), Nancy A. Neef (The Ohio State University), James Nicholson Meindl (University of Memphis), Jonathan W. Ivy (Mercyhurst College)

Prior research has demonstrated that when positive reinforcement is presented contingent upon response variability, organisms will increase the degree to which they vary their behavior (e.g., Page & Neuringer, 1985). However, relatively little research has been conducted on the relationship between negative reinforcement and variability. Although positive and negative reinforcement operate similarly (Michael, 1975; Perone, 2003), some have suggested that negative reinforcement may restrict an organisms behavioral repertoire (Sidman, 2001). We evaluated the effects of a schedule in which negative reinforcement was contingent upon response variability. Several college students enrolled in an introductory course in special education served as participants. They played a computer game in which a high-pitched tone was played through earphones, and clicking on one of nine buttons on the screen could terminate the tone. In successive conditions, termination of the tone depended on the current response differing from the previous 3 responses (lag 3) or repeating one of the previous 3 responses (rep 3). Distinctive background colors were associated with the lag 3 and rep schedules. A subsequent series of manipulations assessed the extent to which these background colors exerted stimulus control over responding. All participants responded more variably under the lag 3 condition. Half of the participants also demonstrated stimulus control.


Stimulus Control Over Operant Response Variability: Generalization of Discriminated Variable Responding

MEGAN MIMS (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology), Tracy L. Kettering (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology), Diana J. Walker (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

Basic behavioral literature suggests that behavioral variability is a dimension of behavior that can be increased with operant reinforcement and controlled by discriminative stimuli (Page and Neuringer, 1985). In the current study, a multiple schedule was first used to establish stimulus control over repeated and variable responding in the presence of two different colored cards in 2 college students. Reinforcement was available on an FR schedule of reinforcement during the REPEAT component and on a Lag schedule of reinforcement during the VARY component. Once discriminated responding was observed, a novel task was introduced and repeated and variable responses during the novel task were measured during an extinction component in the presence of the previously acquired same discriminative stimuli. The presence of the discriminative stimuli evoked variable responding both participants, even when reinforcement was removed for all components.




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