The Effects of Fixed-Time Reinforcement Schedules on Functional Response Classes: A Translational Study.
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Research on functional response classes (i.e., all response topographies under the same operant control) has applied significance because less severe forms of problem behavior have been found to co-occur with other, more severe forms (e.g., Lalli, Mace, Wohn, & Livenzey, 1995). In addition, the most severe forms are often targeted for intervention without monitoring other less severe forms. Past research has demonstrated that the probability of untreated response-class members may change (i.e., response covariation) following treatment in individuals with developmental disabilities (Rapp, Vollmer, St. Peter, Dozier, & Cotnoir, 2004). Recently, Shabani, Carr, and Petursdottir (2009) and Mendres and Borrero (in press) have used translational research preparations to investigate the covariation of response-class members maintained by positive and negative reinforcement. The purpose of the present study was to assess covariation in response classes with typically developing preschool children when one class member was targeted for intervention while other members were left untreated. Specifically, fixed-time schedules of reinforcement (i.e., noncontingent reinforcement) were evaluated, as this treatment is common in both research and practice. Results generally indicated that noncontingent reinforcement was effective in decreasing all response-class members when only one member was targeted. However, in one case, this treatment was not effective in reducing the untreated response for which reinforcement was still available. Understanding the behavioral mechanisms responsible for such complexities of response classes and covariation may aid clinicians in developing more effective and efficient treatments.
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