Effects of signaled and unsignaled alternative reinforcement on persistence and relapse in children and pigeons

John A. Nevin, F. Charles Mace, Iser G. DeLeon, Timothy A. Shahan, Kenneth D. Shamlian, Keith Lit, Tara Sheehan, Michelle A. Frank-Crawford, Stephanie L. Trauschke, Mary M. Sweeney, Danielle R. Tarver, Andrew R. Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three experiments explored the impact of different reinforcer rates for alternative behavior (DRA) on the suppression and post-DRA relapse of target behavior, and the persistence of alternative behavior. All experiments arranged baseline, intervention with extinction of target behavior concurrently with DRA, and post-treatment tests of resurgence or reinstatement, in two- or three-component multiple schedules. Experiment 1, with pigeons, arranged high or low baseline reinforcer rates; both rich and lean DRA schedules reduced target behavior to low levels. When DRA was discontinued, the magnitude of relapse depended on both baseline reinforcer rate and the rate of DRA. Experiment 2, with children exhibiting problem behaviors, arranged an intermediate baseline reinforcer rate and rich or lean signaled DRA. During treatment, both rich and lean DRA rapidly reduced problem behavior to low levels, but post-treatment relapse was generally greater in the DRA-rich than the DRA-lean component. Experiment 3, with pigeons, repeated the low-baseline condition of Experiment 1 with signaled DRA as in Experiment 2. Target behavior decreased to intermediate levels in both DRA-rich and DRA-lean components. Relapse, when it occurred, was directly related to DRA reinforcer rate as in Experiment 2. The post-treatment persistence of alternative behavior was greater in the DRA-rich component in Experiment 1, whereas it was the same or greater in the signaled-DRA-lean component in Experiments 2 and 3. Thus, infrequent signaled DRA may be optimal for effective clinical treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-57
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • alternative reinforcement
  • children
  • persistence
  • pigeons
  • relapse
  • signaled DRA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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