Assessment and treatment analysis of automatically reinforced behaviors: examining the relationship between physiological responses and aberrant behaviors
Salinas, Nancy I.
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Some types of repetitive and restrictive patterns of behavior characterized in autism and other developmental disabilities are maintained by automatic reinforcement assessed via functional analysis (FA). Due to the nature of automatic reinforcement (i.e., nonsocial/internal sources of reinforcement), tools that are sensitive to biological/physiological activity, and that can potentially differentiate sources of automatic reinforcement, are needed to measure whether stimulation is gained or attenuated. The current investigation applies the knowledge of FA and the use of physiological measures to investigate the role that positive and negative automatic reinforcement plays in the treatment problem behaviors. Interventions that produce functionally equivalent physiological effects are utilized to determine if physiologically matched stimuli are more effective than non-matched stimuli in the treatment of automatically reinforced aberrant behaviors. The FA and physiological measure results show a connection between non-socially mediated behaviors and physiological outcomes differentiating automatic positive and automatic negative reinforcement. The treatment analysis showed differentiating outcomes for one participant, but not for the second participant. From a theoretical perspective, this research adds to the empirical basis for differentiating operant psychology principles of automatic positive and negative reinforcement, as well as, assessing the role that respondent conditioning plays in maladaptive behaviors (i.e., the extent to which sensory stimulation affects targeted behaviors – whether stimulation is gained or ameliorated).