Date of Award

8-1-2013

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Behavior Analysis and Therapy

First Advisor

Dixon, Mark

Abstract

Impulsive behavior can be viewed as selecting the less beneficial option when multiple choices are presented. This type of sub-optimal decision-making behavior has been demonstrated to be a basic behavior process that is not unique to humans. In recent years, a large body of research has surfaced analyzing the sub-optimal decision-making of animals, generating models that are analogous to impulsive human behavior. This literature attempts to investigate the factors that influence the choice-making of organisms and lead organisms to choose less reinforcement over more reinforcement in some circumstances. Research has shown that reinforcement contingencies alone do not account for all of the behavior produced, especially when organisms fail to optimize their receipt of reinforcement when given a choice. The current study sought to replicate the recent animal research on sub-optimal behavior with humans. Specifically, the current study investigated the choice-making behavior of three young boys with autism using a concurrent-chains schedule of reinforcement. Results replicated previous research with the finding that two of the three participants indicated an increasing preference for the least optimal choice while a third participant maximized his reinforcement throughout the study. Implications for future research are discussed.

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