Differential responding in the presence and absence of discriminative stimuli during multielement functional analyses

Juliet Conners, Brian A. Iwata, Sung Woo Kahng, Gregory P. Hanley, April S. Worsdell, Rachel H. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We evaluated the extent to which discriminative stimuli (SDs) facilitate differential responding during multielement functional analyses. Eight individuals, all diagnosed with mental retardation and referred for assessment and treatment of self-injurious behavior (SIB) or aggression, participated. Functional analyses consisted of four or five assessment conditions alternated in multielement designs. Each condition was initially correlated with a specific therapist and a specific room color (SDs), and sessions continued until higher rates of target behaviors were consistently observed under a specific test condition. In a subsequent analysis, the programmed SDs were removed (i.e., all conditions were now conducted by the same therapist in the same room), and sessions continued until differential responding was observed or until twice as many sessions were conducted with the SDs absent (as opposed to present), whichever came first. Results indicated that the inclusion of programmed SDs facilitated discrimination among functional analysis conditions for half of the participants. These results suggest that the inclusion of salient cues may increase either the efficiency of functional analyses or the likelihood of obtaining clear assessment outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-308
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Assessment
  • Discriminative stimuli
  • Functional analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology


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