An evaluation of magnitudes of reinforcement and mand variability in the treatment of problem behavior in individuals with autism spectrum disorder




Ferguson, Raechal Haley

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Interventions aimed at increasing behavioral variability hold particular importance in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Several procedures have been demonstrated in the applied and translational literature to increase response variability including extinction and lag schedules of reinforcement. However, little is known about the relationship between reinforcer magnitude and response variability. In the basic literature, Doughty, Giorno, and Miller (2013) evaluated the effects of reinforcer magnitude on behavioral variability by manipulating reinforcer magnitude across alternating variability thresholds, with results suggesting that larger reinforcers induced repetitive responding. Recently, Ferguson, Falcomata, Ramirez-Cristoforo, and Vargas-Londono (2019) translated these findings to evaluate the relative effects of different magnitudes of reinforcement on mand variability in children with ASD. Inconsistent with basic findings, the results from Ferguson et al. showed higher levels of variable responding associated with the larger magnitude of reinforcement. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the effects of different magnitudes of reinforcement on variable responding in the treatment of problem behavior. Using a nonconcurrent multiple baseline design with an embedded multielement design, phase A represented baseline data with no programmed response for variability or problem behavior. In phase B, a Lag 1 schedule of reinforcement was implemented within a multielement design, with the durations of reinforcement provided for variable responding varying across small and large magnitude conditions. Results demonstrated dramatic decreases in problem behavior for all participants in both small and large magnitude conditions. The results also suggest that larger magnitudes of reinforcement may increase variable responding more effectively than smaller magnitudes of reinforcement


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