Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior and Response Suppression: The Effects of the Response-Reinforcement Interval

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior and Response Suppression: The Effects of the Response-Reinforcement Interval

Article excerpt

Differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO) has often been used for the elimination of an operant response. This reinforcement-based response elimination procedure is frequently termed omission training (OT) in the applied setting and differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO) in the laboratory setting. The DRO procedure is best defined by the temporal parameters described by Uhl and Garcia (1969). These contingencies are the response-reinforcement (R-[S.sup.R]) interval and the reinforcement-reinforcement ([S.sup.R]-[S.sup.R]) interval. The response-reinforcement interval is the time that the reinforcement ([S.sup.R]) is postponed after emission of a target response (R) (the response to be eliminated), and the reinforcement-reinforcement interval is the time between [S.sup.R]s should no response occur.

DRO has been used with nonhuman subjects, especially in studies comparing the response elimination effects of DRO and extinction (EXT) procedures (Mulick, Leitenberg, & Rawson, 1976; Uhl, 1973; Vyse, Rieg, & Smith, 1985; Zeiler, 1971). Although the majority of results support the hypothesis that DRO is more efficient than extinction (Johnson, McGlynn, & Topping, 1973; Leitenberg, Rawson, & Bath, 1970; Leitenberg, Rawson, & Mulick, 1975; Vyse et al., 1985), some studies have found no significant difference between DRO and extinction (Pacitti & Smith, 1977; Topping & Ford, 1975; Uhl & Sherman, 1971), and still others have found extinction to be more effective (Lowry & Lachter, 1977; Uhl, 1973; Uhl & Garcia, 1969; Uhl & Sherman, 1971).

At present, very few studies have investigated the effects of varying the response-reinforcement interval on the effectiveness of DRO in eliminating a response. Zeiler (1977) used a within-subject design to investigate this parameter by varying the number of DRO units that had to be completed per food delivery. The required time for not responding was divided into separate units such that the total DRO interval remained constant. The data indicate that the shorter the time unit of the DRO, the lower the response rate.

Only two studies have previously undertaken a detailed analysis of the phenomenon of reacquisition, when reinforcement for the eliminated response is again introduced. Vyse et al. (1 985) found differences during the first few minutes of reacquisition only, and that this effect was dependent on whether short or long response-reinforcement intervals were programmed. Animals whose response history consisted of longer response-reinforcement intervals showed more suppression of original response responding during reacquisition. Pacitti and Smith (1977) found a similar resistance to the reacquisition of the original response.

The present experiments directly investigate different DRO intervals using a between-subjects design to compare three values of the R-[S.sup.R] intervals and extinction (EXT) as response elimination procedures. Three experimental phases were used: acquisition, treatment, and reacquisition. No differences were expected between the groups in the number of responses emitted during the acquisition phase. During the treatment phase a response elimination effect was predicted for each of the groups. Based upon research by Zeiler (1977; 1979) it was hypothesized that the difference in the total DRO interval would make a difference between the groups. Predictions were that the longer R-[S.sup.R] interval group would show significantly greater suppression of responding than the other three groups.

In regard to reacquisition data, data from Vyse et al. (1985) shows that differences should occur in only the first few minutes of reacquisition dependent on whether the animals had experienced a shorter or longer DRO. Within the present study similar effects were expected. It was predicted that the animals receiving the longest response-reinforcement interval would show the slowest reacquisition of lever responding during this last phase. …

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