Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education and Rehabilitation

Department name when degree awarded

Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling

Committee Chair(s)

Stephanie M. Peterson


Stephanie M. Peterson


Lloyd D. Peterson


Benjamin Lignugaris/Kraft


Timothy Slocum


Sarah Bloom


David P. Wacker


The present study investigated the effects of a concurrent schedules arrangement, in which three dimensions of reinforcement (duration, attention, and stimuli) were manipulated, on choice responding, appropriate behavior, and problem behavior for three participants with disabilities who had escape-maintained problem behavior. Three experiments were conducted in which participants could choose between work, break, or problem behavior. In the first experiment, the choice analysis, three reinforcement dimensions were varied simultaneously for choice responses. In the second experiment, the component choice analysis, reinforcement dimensions were evaluated in isolation. In the third experiment, the effort analysis, increasing task demand requirements and how they affected response allocation were investigated.

Results of the first experiment were consistent across all participants, and suggested that participants allocated their choices in favor of reinforcement contingencies that resulted in breaks with the longest duration, high preference stimuli, and high quality attention. Results of the second and third experiments, however, were idiosyncratic across participants. Component choice analysis results suggested that only specific reinforcement dimensions maintained responding for some participants, whereas all reinforcement dimensions maintained response allocation for others. Results of the third experiment suggested that as task demands increased, reinforcement contingencies that previously maintained responding in the second experiment did not always continue to maintain responding for all participants.

This study contributes to and extends the literature on choice making in several ways. The majority of previously published investigations evaluated different dimensions of reinforcement when only two response options were concurrently available, and many of these studies only examined one or two reinforcement dimensions. The present study used a concurrent schedules arrangement in which three concurrently available response options existed. Like previous research the present study suggests that quality of reinforcement can be manipulated to effectively bias individuals' responding in favor of adaptive responses, and the quality variables that impact choice responding may or may not be related to the function of problem behavior. However, further research is needed to understand how choice responding is impacted by increasing demand requirements, as this study demonstrated that choice responding was idiosyncratically affected by changing task demands.




This work was revised and made publicly available electronically on July 20, 2011