Preference for reinforcers of different efficacies with persons with developmental disabilities

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Kelso, Pamela D.
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Past research has shown that preference for a stimulus is correlated positively with reinforcer efficacy – more preferred stimuli tend to be more potent reinforcers. Researchers have recently examined the use of progressive ratio (PR) reinforcement schedules to evaluate preference. However, research on the concordance between preference and performance under a progressive ratio schedule is limited. Therefore, two experiments were conducted to extend this research. In Experiment 1 I compared the relative reinforcing efficacy of six stimuli obtained under a PR schedule to the mean preference hierarchy obtained through paired-stimulus preference assessments conducted before and after PR reinforcement sessions. In Experiment 2 I evaluated the PR schedule for quantifying the reinforcing value of three stimuli from Experiment 1 (i.e., one high, one medium, and one low preference stimulus). The results of Experiment 1 indicated that items that yielded higher breaking points and responses per minute were also more preferred. However, concordance between percent preference and breaking points and response rates for less preferred items was more variable. The results of Experiment 2 showed that high preference stimuli increased responding over baseline for all participants. However, low preference reinforcers also increased responding over baseline for some participants.
Preference, assessments, Progressive-ratio, schedule, Reinforcer, efficacy