Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Invited Tutorial #263
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
A Tutorial on Delay of Reinforcement
Sunday, May 25, 2014
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
W178a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EAB/TBA; Domain: Basic Research
PSY/BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: Mark P. Reilly, Ph.D.
Chair: Mark P. Reilly (Central Michigan University)
Presenting Authors: : A. CHARLES CATANIA (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Mark P. Reilly (Central Michigan University)

Delayed reinforcers are ubiquitous effects of operant contingencies. In psychology's early days, they were mostly viewed as impediments to learning: the more time between an act and its consequences, the slower the learning. Technical problems complicated studies of delay gradients (the functions relating rate of responding to delay): e.g., can we ignore additional responses occurring between a response and its scheduled delayed reinforcer? When several successive responses are followed by a reinforcer, all are followed by that reinforcer, the most recent with the shortest delay. Peter Dews, recognizing the significance of this observation, showed how it could clarify our understanding of performances maintained by reinforcement schedules and pointed the way to surmounting the technical difficulties in determining delay gradients. This tutorial considers the relevance of that experimental history not only for the foundations of our science but also for its applications. For example, in a vast array of instructional applications, correction procedures guarantee that correct responses eventually follow errors; those errors, followed after some delay by reinforcers produced by the subsequent corrects, may persist for that reason. Improving our understanding of delayed reinforcers in both basic and applied settings may therefore help us to enhance our instructional practices.

Instruction Level: Advanced
Target Audience:

Especially those who wish to expand their understanding of basic processes, including students, practitioners, and teachers, and all with an interest in the details of the phenomenon of reinforcement.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants should be able to 1) Recognize in both theory and practice that the effect of a reinforcer on subsequent behavior diminishes, according to a decay function, the longer the delay between prior behavior and the reinforcer; (2) Recognize in both theory and practice that the effect of a reinforcer on subsequent behavior depends on the entire sequence of responses that led to the reinforcer, and not just on the most recent one; and (3) Apply procedures to reduce the effects on undesired behavior, such as errors in stimulus control procedures, that might otherwise be maintained because they are followed after short delays by reinforced correct responses.
A. CHARLES CATANIA (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Mark P. Reilly (Central Michigan University)
A. Charles Catania, professor emeritus at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is a past-president of ABAI and Division 25 of the American Psychological Association and has served as editor of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. He had the good fortune to start his career in 1954 in Fred Keller's introductory psychology course at Columbia and later to serve as a teaching assistant in Nat Schoenfeld's experimental psychology sequence. He earned his Ph.D. at Harvard, where he then conducted postdoctoral research in B. F. Skinner's pigeon laboratory. After a stint in psychopharmacology, he moved to the University Heights campus of New York University and then to UMBC, where he maintained a pigeon laboratory with Eliot Shimoff, also a Columbia product. Much of their collaborative research was concerned with the behavior engendered and maintained by a variety of reinforcement schedules, with an abiding interest in relating schedule performances to fundamental behavioral processes and to the delay-of-reinforcement gradient in particular. His service as director of an applied behavior analysis master's track at UMBC allowed him to explore relations between basic and applied areas of our field. He remains professionally active and recently completed the fifth edition of his textbook, Learning.
Keyword(s): correction procedures, delay gradient, instructional practices, reinforcement delay



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