shows the duration of Stevie's on-task behavior during all phases of the study, as well as his choices for the immediate or delayed reinforcer during the choice baseline and self-control training conditions. During the natural baseline, Stevie engaged in relatively low levels of on-task behavior (M = 42 s) on the matching-to-sample workbook task. His time on task increased when he accessed the more preferred reinforcer after engaging in the task for 168 s. When the criterion to access the more preferred reinforcer was set at 420 s, Stevie initially increased his time on task, but then chose the immediate, less preferred reinforcer during three subsequent trials. During self-control training (C), he demonstrated criterion performance (420 s) after 35 trials. He also demonstrated criterion performance during the response generalization probe, suggesting that self-control generalized to a task for which no training occurred. When the natural baseline was reimplemented, the mean duration of responding decreased to 154 s. He chose the more preferred reinforcer and demonstrated criterion performance during the final choice baseline condition, which included a maintenance probe that was conducted 41 days later.
Figure 1. Duration of Stevie's task engagement during natural baseline (A), choice baseline (B1 and B2), and self-control training (C) conditions. The solid triangles indicate that the participant chose the delayed, more preferred reinforcer; the open triangles (more ...)
This study examined the effectiveness of teaching self-control to an adolescent boy with mild intellectual disability using qualitatively different reinforcers. Previous research has shown that individuals with intellectual disabilities can be taught to tolerate delays for quantitatively larger amounts of a reinforcer (Dixon & Falcomata, 2004
; Dixon et al., 1998
; Dixon & Tibbetts, 2009
; Schweitzer & Sulzer-Azaroff, 1988
), but individuals in applied settings are often asked to choose between qualitatively different reinforcers for which they show varying preferences. Demonstration of self-control with qualitatively different reinforcers mirrors more naturalistic choice and may make reinforcement interventions more effective. Preferences are rarely stable and vary for any given individual, both for this population (Zhou, Iwata, Goff, & Shore, 2001
) and for typically developed individuals (Wine, Gilroy, & Hantula, 2012
These findings suggest that individuals with intellectual disabilities can be taught self-control by progressively increasing the duration of task-related behavior required to produce a more preferred reinforcer. Furthermore, self-control may generalize to tasks for which no self-control training occurred. Further exploration of qualitatively different reinforcers and their effects on acquisition and generalization of self-control skills is warranted. During self-control training, our participant's duration of responding progressively increased to meet requirements to earn the delayed, more preferred reinforcer. However, the design did not permit replication of this effect within or between subjects. Future studies could utilize a multiple baseline design across participants, which would permit replication of our results.