Choice in transition: Replication and extension to preschool children in a naturalistic setting

Brian K. Martens, Tonya L. Lambert, William E. Sullivan, Jennifer D. Magnuson, Allison J. Morley, Samantha J. Sallade, Emily L. Baxter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study replicated previous basic research into the dynamics of choice and extended this analysis to children's behavior in a naturalistic setting. Two preschoolers with disabilities were observed interacting with their teachers at baseline and during an experimental analysis involving four pairs of concurrent variable-interval schedules of adult attention implemented by an experimenter. Each child was exposed to four experimental phases in which the relative reinforcer rates for on- and off-task behavior were 10:1, 1:1, 1:10, and reversed back to 10:1. The 10:1 phase was designed to mimic the same schedules and types of adult attention observed at baseline. We used the generalized matching equation to model steady-state behavior at the end of the transition phases and to evaluate changes in sensitivity at various points throughout the phases. Choice in transition was evaluated by plotting log behavior ratios by session, cumulated time on- and off-task and cumulated attention for on- and off-task behavior by session, and interreinforcer behavior ratios following different sequences of the first four reinforcer deliveries. The generalized matching equation accounted for a large proportion of variance in steady-state responding, sensitivity values increased steadily throughout the phases, patterns of choice in transition were similar to those reported in basic research, and interreinforcer preference generally shifted toward the just-reinforced alternative. These findings are consistent with previous basic research and support the generality of the dynamics of choice to children's on- and off-task behavior reinforced by adult attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-321
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Choice
  • Concurrent schedules
  • Generalized matching equation
  • Interreinforcement preference
  • Preschool children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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