Frequency of Reinforcement as a Determinant of Timeout Effectiveness
Tallon, Robert James
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The problem: Reinforcement is by definition, an integral part of the punishment procedure termed timeout from positive reinforcement. The influence that different reinforcement requencies have on the effectiveness of a one minute timeout procedure was investigated. Procedure: Four profoundly retarded adolescent males served as subjects in a classroom setting. Following baseline a sixty second timeout procedure involving sitting in a corner with a quietroom as a backup was administered contingent on each occurrence of specified disruptive behaviors. Reinforcement frequency for alternative behavior was then systematically varied using zero, ten, thirty, and sixty reinforcers per hour in a counter-balanced order across subjects. Findings: For three of the four subjects a functional relationship between reinforcement frequency and timeout effectiveness (measured in amount of suppression of disruptive behavior) was demonstrated. Conclusions: Reinforcement of alternative behavior is a major determinant of the effectiveness of a timeout procedure at suppressing undesirable behavior. High reinforcement frequencies may be used to overcome recovery during punishment phenomena without increasing the intensity of the punishing stimulus. Recommendations: In order to achieve maximal suppression of target behaviors and avoid recovery during punishment, deceleration procedures should be accompaiend by a substantial frequency of reinforcement for alternative behavior.
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