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The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 153–161 | Cite as

Defining terms in behavior analysis: Reinforcer and discriminative stimulus

  • Henry D. SchlingerJr.
  • Elbert Blakely
  • Julie Fillhard
  • Alan Poling
Article

Abstract

Many definitions of reinforcer and discriminative stimulus found in behavioral texts include a requirement of temporal proximity between stimulus and response. However, this requirement is not consistently adopted. We present additional evidence from a questionnaire that was sent to members of the editorial boards of several behavioral journals showing that there is not universal agreement concerning the temporal parameters accepted in the definitions of reinforcer and discriminative stimulus. We suggest that the disagreement over the definitions of these essential terms ought to be at least addressed if not resolved. Because the discrepancy usually occurs when the behavior of verbal humans is at issue, we urge behavior analysts to be conservative when extending the terms reinforcer and discriminative stimulus from the behavior of nonhumans in the laboratory to human behavior where the effects of many stimuli may depend in part on sophisticated verbal repertoires.

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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry D. SchlingerJr.
    • 1
  • Elbert Blakely
    • 2
  • Julie Fillhard
    • 3
  • Alan Poling
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWestern New England CollegeSpringfieldUSA
  2. 2.Threshold Inc.Winter ParkUSA
  3. 3.Western Michigan UniversityUSA

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