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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Graduate Studies

First Advisor

Roger C. Katz

First Committee Member

Esther Cohen

Second Committee Member

Gary N. Howells


The effects of thinning to intermittent reinforcement with various reward-associated messages were investigated using an alternating treatments design. Three children who displayed high rates of disruptive classroom behavior were encouraged to be on-task using a FI 30" schedule of token reinforcement. Once the children reached a preset criterion of on-task behavior, the tokens were thinned to a leaner FI 5' schedule and different reward-associated messages concerning the reinforcement reduction were simultaneously interspersed. Three conditions were compared and alternated from one session to the next. One condition attributed the reinforcement reduction to increased competence (e.g., "You're doing so well you don't need tokens"); a second attributed reductions to factors extraneous to behavior (e.g. therapist forgetful ness); in the third condition no information was given about the schedule change. In a final extinction phase tokens were completely withdrawn. Results indicated that for two subjects the reward-associated messages affected rates of on-task behavior differentially during both thinning and extinction sessions. Better short-term maintenance was obtained during thinning and extinction phases when the reward messages stressed personal competence rather than extraneous reasons for the reduction in reinforcers. The results are interpreted in terms of reward communication theory. Practical implications are also discussed.





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