The effects of variable-time delivery of food items and praise on problem behavior reinforced by escape

Joanna E. Lomas, Wayne W. Fisher, Michael E. Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Prior research indicates that reinforcement of an appropriate response (e.g., compliance) can produce concomitant reductions in problem behavior reinforced by escape when problem behavior continues to produce negative reinforcement (e.g., Lalli et al., 1999). These effects may be due to a preference for positive over negative reinforcement or to positive reinforcement acting as an abolishing operation, rendering demands less aversive and escape from demands less effective as negative reinforcement. In the current investigation, we delivered a preferred food item and praise on a variable-time 15-s schedule while providing escape for problem behavior on a fixed-ratio 1 schedule in a demand condition for 3 participants with problem behavior maintained by negative reinforcement. Results for all 3 participants showed that variable-time delivery of preferred edible items reduced problem behavior even though escape continued to be available for these responses. These findings are discussed in the context of motivating operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-435
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Asperger syndrome
  • Autism
  • Functional analysis
  • Motivating operations
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Noncontingent reinforcement
  • Response-independent reinforcement
  • Time-based schedules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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