Effects of task difficulty and type of contingency on students' allocation of responding to math worksheets

Amanda L. Lannie, Brian K Martens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


This study investigated students' allocation of responding as a function of task difficulty and type of reinforcement contingency (i.e., accuracy based or time based). Four regular education fourth-grade students were presented with two identical stacks of easy and then difficult math worksheets using a reversal design. Regardless of condition, completing problems from each stack of worksheets was reinforced according to a different contingency; one required correct completion of math problems (accuracy based) and one required on-task behavior (time based). Results suggested that 3 of the 4 students preferred the accuracy-based contingency when given easy material and the time-based contingency when given difficult material. One student allocated more responding to the accuracy-based contingency when given easy problems but did not show a clear preference for either contingency with difficult problems. The implications of these findings for designing reinforcement-based programs for tasks of varying difficulty are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2004



  • Academic behavior
  • Reinforcement contingency
  • Response allocation
  • Task difficulty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Clinical Psychology

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