Emergence of reinforcer preference as a function of schedule requirements and stimulus similarity

Iser G. DeLeon, Brian A. Iwata, Han Leong Goh, April S. Worsdell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Tustin (1994) recently observed that an individual's preference for one of two concurrently available reinforcers under low schedule requirements (concurrent fixed-ratio [FR] 1) switched to the other reinforcer when the schedule requirements were high (concurrent FR 10). We extended this line of research by examining preference for similar and dissimilar reinforcers (i.e., those affecting the same sensory modality and those affecting different sensory modalities). Two individuals with developmental disabilities were exposed to an arrangement in which pressing two different panels produced two different reinforcers according to progressively increasing, concurrent-ratio schedules. When two dissimilar stimuli were concurrently available (food and a leisure item), no clear preference for one item over the other was observed, regardless of the FR schedules in effect (FR 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20). By contrast, when two similar stimuli were concurrently available (two food items), a clear preference for one item emerged as the schedule requirements were increased from FR 1 to FR 5 or FR 10. These results are discussed in terms of implications for conducting preference assessments and for selecting reinforcers to be used under training conditions in which response requirements are relatively high or effortful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-449
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral economics
  • Preference
  • Reinforcer assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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