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Signaled alternative reinforcement and the persistence of operant behavior.

J Exp Anal Behav. 2016 Jul;106(1):22-33

Authors: Bland VJ, Bai JY, Fullerton JA, Podlesnik CA

Abstract
Differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA) is a treatment designed to eliminate problem behavior by reinforcing an alternative behavior at a higher rate. Availability of alternative reinforcement may be signaled, as with Functional Communication Training, or unsignaled. Whether or not alternative reinforcement is signaled could influence both the rate and persistence of problem behavior. The present study investigated whether signaling the availability of alternative reinforcement affects the rate and persistence of a concurrently available target response with pigeons. Three components of a multiple concurrent schedule arranged equal reinforcement rates for target responding. Two of the components also arranged equal reinforcement rates for an alternative response. In one DRA component, a discrete stimulus signaled the availability of response-contingent alternative reinforcement by changing the keylight color upon reinforcement availability. In the other DRA component, availability of alternative reinforcement was not signaled. Target responding was most persistent in the unsignaled DRA component when disrupted by satiation, free food presented between components, and extinction, relative to the signaled DRA and control components. These findings suggest the discrete stimulus functionally separated the availability of alternative reinforcement from the discriminative stimuli governing target responding. These findings provide a novel avenue to explore in translational research assessing whether signaling the availability of alternative reinforcement with DRA treatments reduces the persistence of problem behavior.

PMID: 27282131 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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