Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Living Edition
| Editors: Fred R. Volkmar

Reinforcement, Differential

  • David McAdamEmail author
  • Vicki Madaus Knapp
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_1289-3


Differential reinforcement is a behavioral analytic term related to the principle of reinforcement and the process of extinction. Differential reinforcement involves providing reinforcement contingent on the display of specific responses, not all responses. Differential reinforcement serves to refine or shape certain responses and reduces or eliminates other responses that do not meet the criteria for reinforcement. Responses that are differentially reinforced are intended to increase and meet a prespecified criterion defined in terms of some response dimension, including frequency, topography, intensity, duration, latency, or magnitude. The responses that do not meet the criteria for reinforcement are not reinforced, put on extinction, and decreased. Differential reinforcement is a useful and naturally occurring process for increasing some behavior while eliminating other behavior. The effectiveness of differential reinforcement to increase or eliminate specific targeted...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Readings

  1. Catania, A. C. (2013). Learning (5th ed.). Cornwall-on-Hudson: Sloan Publishing.Google Scholar
  2. Mazaleski, J. L., Iwata, B. A., Vollmer, T. R., Zarcone, J. R., & Smith, R. G. (1993). Analysis of the reinforcement and extinction components in DRO contingencies with self-injury. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26(2), 143–156. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1993.26-143.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Vollmer, T. R., & Iwata, B. A. (1992). Differential reinforcement as treatment for behavior disorders: Procedural and functional variations. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 13(4), 393–417.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Vollmer, T., Roane, H., Ringdahl, J., & Marcus, B. (1999). Evaluating treatment challenges with differential reinforcement of alternative behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 32(1), 9–23. http://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1999.32-9.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Watts, A. C., Wilder, D. A., Gregory, M. K., Leon, Y., & Ditzian, K. (2013). The effect of rules on differential reinforcement of other behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46(3), 680–684.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Program DirectorDaemen CollegeAmherstUSA