Inappropriate Use of the Terms Noncontingent Reinforcement and Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors Term Paper

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  • Subject: Psychology
  • Type: Term Paper
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Inappropriate use of the terms "noncontingent reinforcement" and "differential reinforcement of other behaviors"

Shakespeare would not have anticipated this issue -- labels for procedures when he wrote "What is in a name, a rose with any other would smell as sweet." The controversy is not about the effect of the procedure but rather relates to if the applied behavior analysis on the use of the terms 'noncontingent reinforcement' -- NCR and 'differential reinforcement of other behaviors' -- DRO are appropriate and the definitions of the process. The irony is that there is no dispute in the effectiveness of the processes but if the use of the terms is confusing and if the definition of reinforcement is contingent on behavior. The question then is if the issue will be dead and if it can be shown that an alternate name may clear the confusion especially with regard to the term 'contingent behavior' and alternative terms for the other terminology. In this context it has to be admitted that however clear a procedure may be if the appropriate names and labels are not going to be used it may cause confusion at a point of time. The unfortunate issue begins with the use of the term 'noncontingent.'

The Confusion:

The term "noncontingent reinforcement" is actually a type of distinct procedure that deals with the delivery of a stimulus that is not linked in any way to the targets behavior or other events occurring. In other words it can be just a control procedure to bring about control in contingencies like aberrant behavior. The word NCR and the NCR technique is thought of as being the cause of the actual aberrant conduct and it can be found that the investigations of these programs resulted in lots of controversies. The major controversy centers around the fact that reinforcement itself explains that there is a relation between the method and the behavior. The reinforcement may be the approach on a behavior to which it is focused and therefore the reinforcement should be contingent. Thus there cannot be reinforcement without the targeted behavior. (Carr; Severtson, 2005)

Thus the actual behavior-analytic procedure commonly known as noncontingent encouragement offers which may end up being useful both being as fresh manage approach so that the reductive remedy pertaining to predicament behavior. Nevertheless, the word "no contingent reinforcement" is really a misnomer for many reasons. These types of factors which tend to be NCR are actually usually implemented where the situation warrants which means that the conduct was observed. On the other hand the conduct may be subjected to an alternative solution that may not be contingent and thus the confusion prevails. (Carr; Severtson, 2005) So is that the only issue? Or are the processes themselves flawed? This has to be investigated. Fortunately investigations have revealed by the researchers who went into both these types of processes that both appear to be sound within a given framework.

Thus many researchers like Poling and Normand (1999) point out that the fixed-time schedules help in the stopping of troublesome behavior and using functional analysis and it was shown that self-injurious behavior can be maintained by attention and the same is effective in reducing the behavior by delivering attention under a fixed time schedule. Unfortunately the schedule was called a noncontingent reinforcement procedure, and the label stuck. Be what it may it can be emphatically stated that the change in the behavior is created by a change in the environment and increases the behavior and this is not the case in reality where the delivery of the fixed time actually created a change in the behavior and this is not reinforcement. (Poling; Normand, 1999)

The reductions in self-injurious behavior produced by the FT schedule actually did result in reinforcement because the self-injury occurred at the highest rate under this condition. This led the researchers to assume that the behavioral functions of a given stimulus are not fixed; and depend on a lot of variables, and if the stimulus is seen as a re-enforcer in one set of conditions, it does not mean that it will be valid in all conditions including a similar condition at a later period or in a different context. (Poling; Normand, 1999)

The description of the procedures has come into scrutiny and as a result many argue that the NCR is not described or labeled properly. Thus Vollmer (1999) states that noncontingent reinforcement -- NCR is not a correct description for the time-based procedures that succeeds in reducing the behavior rates. Using alternate descriptors like "fixed time attention or fixed-time escape, are more accurate." (Vollmer, 1999)

Though the term simply denotes a control procedure designed to test reinforcement effects there are other procedures like the differential reinforcement of other behavior -- DRO and in both cases the descriptions have caused more problems in understanding than the actual process or the relative outcomes. Therefore it is suggested that the terms and the classifications of these procedures be redefined and the name or label changed but not the procedures. The question of the 'noncontingent reinforcement' and "differential reinforcement of other behaviors" does not become an issue because of the processes involved but because of the way the processes are described and the parameters understood. A simple but realistic redefinition of this would make the issue simpler. (Vollmer, 1999) Are the processes effective or flawed?

The Processes and Effectiveness:

The important question has to be answered and shown that NCR and DRO are not wrong and the researches and finding are valid in both cases. The confusion is only in the name. To that end available literature in these two methods can be reviewed. On looking up the researches in both the methods, it is easy to see that both have been shown to be sound. Thus in a research conducted by Kodak, et al. (2003) the noncontingent reinforcement -- NCR and differential reinforcement of other behavior -- DRO with escape as the reinforcer that were observed shows that the problem behaviors, in the case of a child, were maintained by escape. This was a sure sign that the NCR and DRO at first did not decrease the problem behaviors, and the behaviors were enforced by the attention and escape. DRO with attention and escape as reinforcers as compared to NCR with attention and escape as reinforcers showed that DRO and NCR were responsible for the reduction of the behavior to low levels. (Kodak, et al., 2003)

Further we can find that the DRO was also equally effective but more research is needed in both these procedures. That is true with any scientific procedures but this does not vitiate the procedure themselves. Thus the differences in the methods did not render them useless, and their effectiveness is the same no matter what labels are given to the procedures though their strengths and limitations of these processes are not analyzed fully. The issue was attempted to be solved by Thompson et al. (2003). They compared the effects of extinction with those of NCR and DRO with the multi-element and reversal designs concentrating on the rate and amount of response decrement, and also recovery following reintroduction of reinforcement. They also observed the side effects and came to the conclusion that extinction produced reversal effects, with few observed negative side effects. (Thompson et al., 2003)

Likewise Vollmer et al. (1993) compared the effects of reinforcing compliance with positive reinforcement on subjects with escape-maintained problem behavior. They conclude that the compliance was high with the problem behavior low where there was a positive reinforcement to treat escape behavior. Thus it is high time that the definition, not the process themselves are considered again and suitable labels be brought in.


Is the use of the terms 'non-contingent reinforcement' and 'differential reinforcement of other behaviors' not proper?…

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"Inappropriate Use Of The Terms Noncontingent Reinforcement And Differential Reinforcement Of Other Behaviors" (2011, November 10) Retrieved January 21, 2017, from

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