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An evaluation of the properties of attention as reinforcement for destructive and appropriate behavior.

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  • Research Article
  • Communication


The analogue functional analysis described by Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, and Richman (1982/1994) identifies broad classes of variables (e.g., positive reinforcement) that maintain destructive behavior (Fisher, Ninness, Piazza, & Owen-DeSchryver, 1996). However, it is likely that some types of stimuli may be more effective reinforcers than others. In the current investigation, we identified 2 participants whose destructive behavior was maintained by attention. We used concurrent schedules of reinforcement to evaluate how different types of attention affected both destructive and appropriate behavior. We showed that for 1 participant praise was not an effective reinforcer when verbal reprimands were available; however, praise was an effective reinforcer when verbal reprimands were unavailable. For the 2nd participant, we identified a type of attention that effectively competed with verbal reprimands as reinforcement. We then used the information obtained from the assessments to develop effective treatments to reduce destructive behavior and increase an alternative communicative response.

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