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«EVALUATIONS OF DELAYED REINFORCEMENT IN CHILDREN WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES By JOLENE RACHEL SY A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL ...»

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There has been some debate about the mechanisms responsible for response acquisition and maintenance under delayed reinforcement (see Lattal, 2010, for a review). For example, it has been suggested that responding can be maintained when reinforcement is delayed due to “superstitious” responses that bridge the delay to reinforcement (Keller & Schoenfeld, 1950). Indeed, Ferster (1953) found that each subject consistently engaged in a particular response (e.g., turning in a circle with the head stretched high) during a 60-s delay interval. These responses then continued to occur throughout an approximately 100-hr experimental period. In the present investigation, all subjects engaged in alternative responses during the delay interval.

These responses varied over time and across subjects, ranging from stereotypy (Walden) to drinking water (Vlade and Amira). The lack of consistency suggests that the efficacy of delayed reinforcement was not mitigated by “superstitious” responses occurring during the delay. Instead, these responses could have either been adjunctive responses induced by the reinforcement schedule (e.g., water consumption, Falk, 1961) or responses that were briefly adventitiously reinforced. Reeve et al. (1993) noted that responses that are adventitiously reinforced by temporally contiguous reinforcement may vary and fade over time as the overall contingency (reinforcement for the target response) begins to control behavior.

Assuming that the procedures used in the current investigation accurately estimate response rates under delayed reinforcement, the results of this investigation may have implications for skill acquisition and maintenance of problem behavior. It may be the case that teachers need not provide reinforcers immediately to maintain an appropriate response, even if problem behavior occurs following those appropriate responses. However, it may also be the case that the delivery of reinforcers for appropriate responses that occur some time after problem behavior may actually serve to maintain problem behavior. However, it is difficult to make a jump from the systematic controlled arrangement set up in the current experiments to the more complex contingencies operating in the natural environment. It is hoped that the current series of studies will set the stage for more research on delayed reinforcement in complex environments.

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Jolene Rachel Sy was born in Sacramento, CA in 1981 and was raised in the Sacramento area. In 1998, Jolene moved to Santa Cruz, CA to attend the University of California, Santa Cruz. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in language studies, Jolene began work as a behavior analyst working with children with ASD. It was at this time that she became interested in behavior analysis. In 2005, Jolene moved to Stockton, CA to attend the University of the Pacific (UOP). At UOP, Jolene served as a research assistant in Dr. John Borrero’s laboratory and earned a master’s degree under his supervision. In 2007, Jolene entered the doctoral program in behavior analysis under the supervision of Dr. Tim Vollmer. Jolene earned a doctor of philosophy in 2011, and will relocate to Saint Louis to begin an assistant professor position at Saint Louis

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