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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Kenneth Beauchamp

First Committee Member

John Borrero

Second Committee Member

Lucas Bradley


The purpose of the present study was to develop an approach to determining relative reinforcer value for children, using unit price theory. A free operant preference assessment was conducted with four children, followed by a reinforcer assessment to determine reinforcer efficacy. Following the reinforcer assessment, the unit price evaluation was conducted. The number of reinforcers and number of responses required were manipulated by varying the number of reinforcers provided and the fixed-ratio (FR) requirement, respectively. Four or five different unit price values were compared for each child, and each child's performance was compared with two combinations of FR schedule and number of reinforcers earned for each unit price. The study tested a prediction of unit price theory that as unit price increases, number of responses will increase to an asymptote and decrease thereafter. Results showed that responding increased and then decreased as unit price increased for 2 of the 4 children for one of the two unit price series. Another unit price theory prediction tested was that the rate of consumption of obtained reinforcers at a given price will be a constant regardless of the response requirement and magnitude of reinforcer that make up the unit price. Results showed that consumption was usually similar given equal unit price values but differing FR and amount of consumables received for all 4 participants. These data suggest that unit price theory may be a useful framework for assessing relative reinforcer value. From a clinical perspective, these results suggest that reinforcers may be potent in terms of work rate under one reinforcement schedule and number of reinforcer units combination but not another combination. In terms of consumption, reinforcers may be approximately equally potent under various reinforcement schedule and number of reinforcer units combinations.





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