Free Essay on Researching in Differential Reinforcement of Behavior Arrangements

Published: 2022-10-28
Free Essay on Researching in Differential Reinforcement of Behavior Arrangements
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Consciousness Psychological disorder Behavior change
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1114 words
10 min read

Incorporating Choice in Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior Arrangements is an article by William E. Sullivan and Henry S. Roane both from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University. The Journal of American Psychological Association published the article in October of 2018. It is the second article of the 23rd volume of the journal and covers page 130 to 137. The article discusses the effectiveness of incorporating choices in the treatment processes of children suffering from developmental disabilities. Individuals that have developmental disabilities have a hard time conducting cognitive operations in their daily life. Psychologists, as well as caregivers, use different techniques to get them to perform these tasks and help them acquire the skills along the way. According to Sullivan & Roane (2018), affording those individuals with choices improves their psychosocial development. On the other hand, denying the people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to make decisions creates a dependency culture where they will always depend on their caregivers to make decisions for them, hence inhibiting their development. Therefore, the article recommends the incorporation of choice in the evidence-based treatment of problem behavior.

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The article hypothesizes that staff selected low-preferred activities and access to activities of the staff's choosing is responsible for occasioning and maintaining the problem behavior respectively. The authors used pair-wise analysis to test their hypothesis. The pair-wise analysis aimed to examine the possible effects of patient-selected activities on the occurrence of problem behavior. According to Sullivan & Roane (2018), the test process implemented staff selected and patient selected conditions in a multi-element design. The testing process then went to the second phase contingent upon the results of the first phase. In the participant-selected reinforcement, the caregiver or staff member then gave the subjects an activity board that allowed them to choose a new activity. The staff member then selects the action and submits it for 20 s before returning the board to the subject or allowing them to continue with their previous activity. On the other hand, the staff-selected action. The only difference between the staff selected action and the participant-selected activity was that after the staff member submitted the board for 20 s, he or she was responsible for choosing a new event for the subject to engage Pin.

The researchers first subjected the participants to functional analysis(FA) to determine the variables involved in the occurrence of their behavior. The independent variables were gender, age, developmental disability, choice in activity selection while the dependent variable was the problem behavior. Age and gender are independent because they were not reliant on any other factor or variable, but they affect the outcome of the research. Developmental disability and activity selection are also classified as an independent variable because they have an impact on the dependent variables. The dependent variables refer to the factor that the researcher is researching. The problem behavior qualifies as a dependent variable because it is affected by the age, gender, developmental disability as well as the choice in activity selection of the participants.

The subjects or participants were a 15-year old male named Lou and a 12-year old female named Joan. Both participants were selected based on their referrals for assessment and treatment for inappropriate behavior. Lou had been diagnosed with Smith-Magenis syndrome that caused his aggressive behavior that involved hitting, biting, kicking as well as pinching others. Lou also had self-injurious behavior which included head-slapping, headbanging. Lou was also reported to be involved in property destruction. Lou's case was not so different from Joan's. Joan was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (Sullivan & Roane, 2018). She was also referred for aggressive behavior as well as disruption. Joan tended to hit walls, and throw items. Just like Lou, Joan also has self-injurious behavior and negative vocalizations such as crying and yelling. Both subjects can speak multi-word sentences and can follow directions that involved multiple steps. They also attended outpatient treatment programs that have similar schedules. They both attend the programs five days per week. However, there was a variation in the duration of the visit as Lou's sessions lasted for 5 hrs while Joan's sessions lasted for only 90 minutes. According to Sullivan & Roane (2018), the observation sessions for both participants lasted for 10 minutes. The observation conditions for both subjects were somehow similar since Lou was in a slightly smaller room that measures three by 3 meters while Joan was in a room measuring three by 4 meters. The only difference was in the session materials which were dependent on the condition in effect.

The results of the study showed that the participants preferred to be given a choice to make decisions on various reinforcements rather than having their caregiver make the decisions for them. Interestingly, FA results for Lou were undifferentiated while there was no problem behavior for Joan during the FA. These results led the researchers to inconclusive results which caused them to formulate the hypothesis and decide to use pair-wise analysis. The results from both sets of pair-wise analysis showed higher rates of problem behavior when the staff members selected the low nonpreferred activities. Unsurprisingly, there were zero rates of problem behavior when the caretakers allowed the participants to choose their preferred activity. Interestingly, the level of engagement for Lou seems to be independent of his problem behavior. For both sets of experiments which is staff selected activities and participant selected activities, Lou showed 74% engagement rate and 71% engagement rate respectively. Joan's results show significant variation. She had an engagement rate of 98.2% for the activities that she chose by herself and a significantly lower engagement rate of 46.1% for the operations that the caregivers selected for her. The study implication is that parents and caregivers will be more open to giving developmentally disabled children a chance for them to decide on the activities that they want to undertake to encourage the development of skills.

The researchers could have used a more significant number of subjects to make the research more valid. The choice to use only two participants exposes the study to a lot of variables which could influence the accuracy of the results. For example, factors such as culture, race, ethnicity, upbringing environment come into question when determining the behavior or child. Furthermore, using a more extensive study sample would have allowed the researcher to view the impact of other variables such as socio-economic factors which can affect the behavior of the participants. The researchers could also have used varying age groups of participants to allow them to collect more generalized results. At the moment there is no guarantee that the process will yield similar results when applied to children under the age of 10.


Sullivan, W., & Roane, H. (2018). Incorporating Choice in Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior Arrangements. American Psychological Association, 23, 130-137.

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