Preference for food and non-food items of known reinforcing values in people with developmental disabilities

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Heckert, Ryan
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When presenting reinforcers to individuals with developmental disabilities, many researchers use food. However, there may be other types of reinforcers which may be equally or more effective. Although preference assessment methods have been well-researched, one area that has not yet been resolved is whether food reinforcers are always more preferred than non-food reinforcers, when both are presented in the same assessment. This study compared preference for food and non-food items with similar and dissimilar reinforcing values in three people with developmental disabilities. The study first measured the reinforcing value of food and non-food items and used these items in a subsequent preference assessment. Results showed that (a) when food and non-food items were of approximately equal reinforcing value, or when food was more reinforcing than the non-food items, food tended to be preferred, and (b) when non-food items were much more reinforcing than food items, non-food items tended to be preferred.
Preference assessment, Reinforcing value, Stimulus category