Does functional communication training compete With ongoing contingencies of reinforcement? An analysis during response acquisition and maintenance

Melissa J. Shirley, Brian A. Iwata, Sungwoo Kahng, Jodi L. Mazaleski, Dorothea C. Lerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We examined the effectiveness of functional communication training (FCT) in reducing self-injurious behavior (SIB) and in shaping an alternative (communicative) response while SIB continued to be reinforced. Following a functional analysis of 3 individuals' SIB, we attempted to teach an alternative response consisting of a manual sign to each individual, using the reinforcer that maintained SIB. When FCT was implemented without extinction, SIB remained at baseline rates for all participants, and none of the participants acquired the alternative response. When extinction was added to the training procedure, SIB decreased and manual signing increased for all participants. To determine if signing, when established, would compete with SIB when both were reinforced, extinction was then withdrawn. Signing was maintained and SIB occurred at low rates for 2 individuals, but SIB returned to baseline rates for the 3rd individual, necessitating the reimplementation of extinction. These results suggest that it may be difficult to establish alternative behaviors if inappropriate behavior continues to be reinforced, but that, when established, alternative behavior might compete successfully with ongoing contingencies of reinforcement for inappropriate behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997



  • Extinction
  • Functional analysis
  • Functional communication training
  • Self-injurious behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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