On the reinforcing effects of the content of verbal attention

Wayne W. Fisher, H. A.Chris Ninness, Cathleen C. Piazza, Jamie S. Owen-Deschryver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


During a functional analysis, a boy with autism and oppositional defiant disorder displayed destructive behavior that was maintained by attention in the form of verbal reprimands (e.g., "Don't hit me"). In a second analysis, contingent verbal reprimands produced higher rates of the behavior than contingent statements that were unrelated to the target response (e.g., "It is sunny today"), suggesting that some forms of attention were more reinforcing than others. A treatment based on these analyses reduced the behavior to near-zero levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-238
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral assessment
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Functional analysis
  • Verbal behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology


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