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J Appl Behav Anal. 2009 Summer;42(2):447-68. doi: 10.1901/jaba.2009.42-447.

Analyses of response-stimulus sequences in descriptive observations.

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  • 1Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322-2865, USA.


Descriptive observations were conducted to record problem behavior displayed by participants and to record antecedents and consequences delivered by caregivers. Next, functional analyses were conducted to identify reinforcers for problem behavior. Then, using data from the descriptive observations, lag-sequential analyses were conducted to examine changes in the probability of environmental events across time in relation to occurrences of problem behavior. The results of the lag-sequential analyses were interpreted in light of the results of functional analyses. Results suggested that events identified as reinforcers in a functional analysis followed behavior in idiosyncratic ways: after a range of delays and frequencies. Thus, it is possible that naturally occurring reinforcement contingencies are arranged in ways different from those typically evaluated in applied research. Further, these complex response-stimulus relations can be represented by lag-sequential analyses. However, limitations to the lag-sequential analysis are evident.


conditional probability; descriptive analysis; developmental disabilities; lag-sequential analysis

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