Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #248
CE Offered: BACB
Accumulated and Distributed Reinforcement Arrangements: Further Comparisons in Multiple Contexts
Sunday, May 26, 2019
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom B
Area: AUT/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Nathalie Fernandez (University of Florida)
Discussant: Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida)
CE Instructor: Iser Guillermo DeLeon, Ph.D.

Several recent studies have compared the relative effects of, and preferences for, reinforcer arrangements that provided either a) immediate, but discontinuous, access to a reinforcer following a small response requirement (i.e., distributed reinforcement) or b) delayed, but continuous (or uninterrupted), access to the same total quantity of the reinforcer following a larger response requirement (i.e. accumulated reinforcement). Most (but not all) comparisons have revealed that learners prefer, and work more efficiently, under the accumulated reinforcement condition despite the inherent delay to first contact with the reinforcer. The studies in this symposium extend our understanding of these effects in multiple contexts and under multiple conditions. The themes collectively explored include implications for varying applied contexts (e.g., feeding disorders, skill acquisition, problem behavior); effects of effort permutations (e.g., task difficulty, task mastery), and effects of schedule requirements (e.g., reinforcer production schedules, token exchange-production schedules). Collectively, the studies contribute to our understanding of the determinants of choice and preference and advance our knowledge of best practices for individualized learning arrangements.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:



Preference for and Efficacy of Accumulated and Distributed Response-Reinforcer Arrangements During Skill Acquisition

(Applied Research)
MICHELLE A. FRANK-CRAWFORD (Kennedy Krieger Institute; University of Maryland, Baltimore County), John C. Borrero (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Eli T. Newcomb (The Faison Center), Ting Chen (The Faison Center), Jonathan Dean Schmidt (Kennedy Krieger Institute)

We evaluated preference for and efficacy of distributed and accumulated response-reinforcer arrangements during discrete-trial teaching for unmastered tasks. During the distributed arrangement, participants received 30-s access to a reinforcer after each correct response. During accumulated arrangements, access was accrued throughout the work period and delivered in its entirety upon completion of the work requirement. Accumulated arrangements were assessed with and without the use of tokens. In Experiment 1, four of five participants preferred one of the accumulated arrangements and preference remained unchanged across mastered and unmastered tasks for all 5 participants. Four individuals participated in Experiment 2 and we conducted replications with new target stimuli with three of these individuals (for a total of seven analyses). Target stimuli were mastered more quickly in one of the accumulated arrangements in six of the seven analyses. Partial correspondence between preference and efficacy outcomes was obtained for two of the three individuals for whom both experiments were conducted. These results support prior research indicating that many learners with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities prefer accumulated reinforcement and that accumulated arrangements can be as effective as distributed arrangements in teaching new skills.

Comparing Effectiveness of Distributed, Accumulated, and Negative Reinforcement in the Treatment of Escape-Maintained Problem Behavior
(Applied Research)
ANDREW C BONNER (University of Florida ), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida), Sarah Weinsztok (University of Florida), Michelle A. Frank-Crawford (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: Treatments for escape-maintained problem behavior sometimes consist of placing problem behavior on extinction and delivering reinforcers according to a differential reinforcement schedule. However, evidence suggests that positive reinforcement for task completion may decrease escape-maintained problem behavior in the absence of escape extinction. Moreover, a variety of reinforcers (e.g., food, toys, escape) and reinforcement arrangements (e.g., distributed, accumulated) have been utilized in prior research. However, the differential effects of these interventions on treatment durability when problem behavior continues to produce escape remains unknown. Treatment durability refers here to an interventions capacity to maintain low rates of problem behavior as the unit price per reinforcer is increased. Thus, the current study evaluated whether interventions incorporating the use of tokens (exchangeable for accumulated access to toys) would equal or exceed the effects, in terms of treatment durability, of interventions that incorporate distributed access to food or the functional reinforcer. Results showed that for two of four participants, accumulated positive reinforcement was as durable as distributed positive reinforcement. Furthermore, the intervention involving negative reinforcement for compliance was either not effective or deteriorated as schedule thinning was conducted for all participants.
Accumulated and Distributed Reinforcer Arrangements in the Treatment for Pediatric Food Refusal and Selectivity
(Applied Research)
ELAINE CHEN (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Carrie S. W. Borrero (Kennedy Krieger Institute), John C. Borrero (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Michelle A. Frank-Crawford (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: Treatment for inappropriate mealtime behavior (IMB) often includes extinction and differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA) arranged using distributed reinforcement where brief reinforcer access is delivered immediately following each appropriate mealtime response. Alternatively, DRA may be arranged using accumulated reinforcement where longer, continuous access to reinforcers is delivered following the completion of a larger response requirement (e.g., multiple consecutive bites). Although research has suggested that individuals prefer and perform better under accumulated arrangements in academic settings, no research to date has evaluated their efficacy in the context of mealtime. The present study compared preference for and the efficacy of distributed and accumulated (with and without tokens) reinforcement with three participants who engaged in IMB. The results suggest that distributed reinforcement was as or more effective than accumulated reinforcement at treating IMB. In addition, two participants preferred distributed reinforcement and the third preferred accumulated reinforcement without tokens.
Preferences for Token Exchange-Production Schedules: Effects of Task Difficulty and Token-Production Schedules
(Basic Research)
JOHN FALLIGANT (Auburn University/Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Sacha T. Pence (Drake University), Sarah Bedell (Auburn University)
Abstract: Individuals allocate behavior to simultaneously available schedules of reinforcement as a function of different dimensions of reinforcement (e.g., delays, magnitude, response effort). Previous research suggests that accumulated exchange-production schedules promote increased work completion and are more preferred than distributed exchange-production schedules despite the commensurate delays to reinforcement. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate whether the response effort or token-production schedules associated with token delivery influence preferences for exchange-production schedules. Participants consisted of three children with autism who were referred to a university-based applied behavior analysis clinic for escape-maintained problem behavior. Tokens exchanged under accumulated schedules supported higher rates of responding and were more preferred, relative to distributed schedules, when they were earned for completing easy tasks (Experiment 1). When participants earned tokens for completing difficult tasks, they generally preferred accumulated exchange-production schedules, and accumulated schedules were slightly more effective than distributed schedules in maintaining behavior (Experiment 2). Under dense token-production schedules, accumulated exchange-production schedules were preferred, but participant’s preferences switched to distributed schedules under increasing token-production (i.e., leaner) schedules (Experiment 3).



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh