Too Much Reinforcement, Too Little Behavior: Assessing Task Interspersal Procedures in Conjunction with Different Reinforcement Schedules with Autistic Children

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Psychology (CMC)

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Task interspersal procedures have been quite effective in increasing autistic children's motivation to learn. These procedures have typically demonstrated that the inclusion of reinforced maintenance tasks (previously learned tasks) increases responding to new acquisition tasks because more reinforcers, in general, are available. However, studies have not specifically addressed the effects of various schedules of reinforcement, used in conjunction with task interspersal procedures, upon response acquisition. In the present study, a multiple baseline design across subjects was used to assess different reinforcement schedules. Five autistic children participated in learning sessions, during which trials of an acquisition task were interspersed with trials of three maintenance tasks. Correct responses to acquisition tasks were continuously reinforced throughout all conditions, while the reinforcement schedule for competent performance of maintenance tasks differed systematically. Results indicated that all children learned the new tasks when food reinforcers were presented only for acquisition tasks. Results are discussed in terms of behavioral contrast and improving the effectiveness of motivation-enhancing procedures for autistic children.

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© 1992 Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

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