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J Appl Behav Anal. 2002 Winter;35(4):391-402.

The effects of differential and lag reinforcement schedules on varied verbal responding by individuals with autism.

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Queens College and The Graduate School and University Center of The City University of New York, USA.


Variability has been shown to be a reinforceable dimension of behavior. One procedure that has been demonstrated to increase variability in basic research is the lag reinforcement schedule. On this type of schedule, a response is reinforced if it differs from a specified number of previous responses. Lag schedules are rarely used, however, for increasing response variability in applied settings. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of a lag schedule of differential reinforcement on varied and appropriate verbal responding to social questions by 3 males with autism. A reversal design with a multiple baseline across subjects was used to evaluate the effects of the lag schedule. During baseline, differential reinforcement of appropriate responding (DRA) resulted in little or no varied responding. During the intervention, a Lag 1 requirement was added to the DRA (Lag 1/DRA) resulting in an increase in the percentage of trials with varied and appropriate verbal responding for 2 of the 3 participants. In addition, an increase in the cumulative number of novel verbal responses was also observed for the same 2 participants. These results are discussed in terms of reinforcement schedules that support variability, generalization, and potential stimulus control over varied responding.

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