On the relative reinforcing effects of choice and differential consequences

Wayne W. Fisher, Rachel H. Thompson, Cathleen C. Piazza, Kimberly Crosland, Deidre Gotjen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Research on the reinforcing effects of providing choice-making opportunities to individuals with developmental disabilities (i.e., allowing them to choose reinforcers or tasks) has produced inconsistent results, perhaps because the mechanisms underlying such effects remain unclear. Choice may produce a reinforcement effect because it is correlated with differential consequences (i.e., choice may increase one's access to higher preference stimuli), or it may have reinforcement value independent of (or in addition to) the chosen stimulus. In Experiment 1, we used a concurrent-operants arrangement to assess preference for a choice condition (in which participants selected one of two available reinforcers) relative to a no-choice condition (in which the therapist selected the same reinforcers on a yoked schedule). All 3 participants preferred the choice option. In Experiment 2, we altered the schedules so that the participant selected one of two lower preference reinforcers in the choice condition, whereas the therapist selected a higher preference stimulus for the participant either half or all of the time in the no-choice condition. Participants typically allowed the therapist to select reinforcers for them (i.e., they allocated responding to the no-choice condition) when it resulted in greater access to higher preference stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-438
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Choice
  • Concurrent operants
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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