A method for conditioning reinforcer preferences in students with moderate mental retardation

Scott P. Ardoin, Brian K. Martens, Laurie A. Wolfe, Alexandra M. Hilt, Blair D. Rosenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Critical to the effectiveness of any positive behavioral intervention is the use of preferred stimuli that are likely to function as reinforcers. When preferred items cannot be used on a continuous basis, are prone to satiation, or are inappropriate for use in a given setting, alternate steps must be taken to ensure reinforcer potency. In this 2-experiment study we assessed accuracy of pictorial choice preference assessment (PCPA) and examined 2 methods for conditioning reinforcing properties to low preference items. Participants included three 12-year-old students with mild or moderate mental retardation. Only partial support for the predictive validity of PCPA was provided in Experiment 1, and conditioning effects were minimal and short lived. Results of Experiment 2 suggested that pairing low preferred items with a choice of multiple, highly preferred items may be an effective means of establishing the former as conditioned reinforcers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-51
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Conditioning reinforcers
  • Establishing-abolishing operations
  • Preference assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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