Title page for ETD etd-09132004-185202

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Volkert, Valerie Marie
Author's Email Address vvolke1@lsu.edu
URN etd-09132004-185202
Title The Effects of Reinforcement Magnitude on Functional Analysis Outcomes
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dorothea Lerman Committee Chair
George Noell Committee Member
Joe Witt Committee Member
  • reinforcement magnitude
  • autism
  • problem behavior
  • functional analysis
Date of Defense 2004-04-17
Availability unrestricted
The functional analysis methodology developed by Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, and Richman (1982/1994) has been successfully used to identify the variables that maintain the problem behavior of individuals with developmental disabilities. However, in some cases, the results of functional analysis may be inconclusive. Altering parameters of reinforcement, such as the schedule, the quality, or magnitude of the reinforcer, may increase the likelihood of obtaining clear functional analysis results. Few studies have evaluated the effects of reinforcement magnitude on problem behavior even though basic findings indicate that this parameter may alter functional analysis outcomes. In fact, reinforcement magnitude has varied widely and appeared to be selected arbitrarily in most studies on functional analysis. In the current study, seven children with autism and/or developmental disabilities who engaged in severe problem behavior were exposed to three separate functional analyses: One with a small (3-s) reinforcement magnitude, one with a medium (20-s) reinforcement magnitude, and one with a large (120-s) reinforcement magnitude. Results of the three functional analyses were compared to determine if a particular reinforcement magnitude should be used to obtain the clearest outcomes. Overall, the same conclusion about the function (s) of each participantís problem behavior was drawn regardless of the reinforcement magnitude. However, the medium reinforcement magnitude is recommended for use during functional analysis.
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