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Generalization of the disruptive effects of alternative stimuli when combined with target stimuli in extinction.

J Exp Anal Behav. 2017 Sep;108(2):255-268

Authors: Podlesnik CA, Miranda-Dukoski L, Jonas Chan CK, Bland VJ, Bai JYH

Differential-reinforcement treatments reduce target problem behavior in the short term but at the expense of making it more persistent long term. Basic and translational research based on behavioral momentum theory suggests that combining features of stimuli governing an alternative response with the stimuli governing target responding could make target responding less persistent. However, changes to the alternative stimulus context when combining alternative and target stimuli could diminish the effectiveness of the alternative stimulus in reducing target responding. In an animal model with pigeons, the present study reinforced responding in the presence of target and alternative stimuli. When combining the alternative and target stimuli during extinction, we altered the alternative stimulus through changes in line orientation. We found that (1) combining alternative and target stimuli in extinction more effectively decreased target responding than presenting the target stimulus on its own; (2) combining these stimuli was more effective in decreasing target responding trained with lower reinforcement rates; and (3) changing the alternative stimulus reduced its effectiveness when it was combined with the target stimulus. Therefore, changing alternative stimuli (e.g., therapist, clinical setting) during behavioral treatments that combine alternative and target stimuli could reduce the effectiveness of those treatments in disrupting problem behavior.

PMID: 28776679 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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