Further Investigation of Differential-Reinforcement-of-Low-Rate Behavior Procedures


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Differential-reinforcement-of-low-rate (DRL) schedules are designed to decrease the rate of a target response without eliminating the response. There are at least two variations of DRL schedules: spaced-responding and full-session. However, it is unclear whether the two variations work in the same way. In fact, there is some evidence that a full-session DRL may eliminate target responding, which may be problematic if it is used for responses where elimination is not ideal (e.g., hand-raising). In the current set of three studies, we systematically compared the DRL types. In Study 1, 19 college students and 10 preschoolers played a computer game in which they earned points based on the two DRL schedules with or without signals indicating reinforcer availability. Results indicated that both DRL schedules reduced, but did not eliminate, target responding as long as signals were present for most participants. In Study 2, we compared the DRL schedules on reducing excessive requests for teacher attention with 3 preschoolers. For all participants, responding was similar and near the optimal criterion (i.e., not eliminated) in both DRL conditions. In Study 3, we conducted a multi-level meta-analysis of published studies and dissertationss using DRL schedules with humans. Results indicated that both DRL schedules reduced target responding relative to baseline, but there were no significant differences between DRL types. There were moderating effects of whether the target response was applied or arbitrary, whether the reinforcer was functional, and the type of signals used. In total, these three studies generally found little to no difference between the DRL types in both experimental preparations and a synthesis of the literature. As such, the use of a full-session DRL in application to reduce, but not eliminate, behavior was supported.