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A Preliminary Analysis of Second-Order Schedule Effects During Treatment of Escape-Maintained Problem Behavior


Token reinforcement procedures are used to increase appropriate behavior (e.g., completion of instructional tasks) and decrease problem behavior (e.g., aggression) in a wide array of clinical contexts. Token exchange-production schedules, which specify the number of tokens that must be accrued to produce the exchange schedule, are important components of token reinforcement programs. For example, accumulated schedules require learners to “bank up” multiple tokens before they can be exchanged, whereas distributed schedules allow learners to exchange tokens for backup reinforcers after just a single token (or a comparatively smaller range of tokens) is earned. Emerging research suggests that individual preferences for these different arrangements varies and is affected by many variables, including increasing work requirements (e.g., reinforcement schedule thinning). In the current study, we demonstrated that preferences for these schedules was stable across increasing work requirements and demonstrated that non-preferred (accumulated) schedule arrangements may support appropriate behavior and decrease problem behavior, even with very lean token-production schedules. These results have implications for practitioners who use token-based interventions and conduct schedule thinning for escape-maintained behavior.

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The authors wish to acknowledge Bo Kim for her assistance with data collection and Nathalie Fernandez for her helpful correspondence during preparation of the manuscript. Molly Bednar is now at Little Leaves Behavioral Services.

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Correspondence to John M. Falligant.

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Data for this clinical study and informed consent were obtained in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. Informed consent was obtained for the clinical services described in the current study.

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All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Falligant, J.M., Laureano, B., Chesbrough, E. et al. A Preliminary Analysis of Second-Order Schedule Effects During Treatment of Escape-Maintained Problem Behavior. J Dev Phys Disabil (2022).

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  • Accumulated
  • Distributed
  • Exchange-production schedule
  • Problem behavior
  • Token reinforcement