Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Behavior Analysis and Therapy

First Advisor

Jowett Hirst, Erica


It is common for typically developing children and children with learning disabilities to exhibit skill deficits or engage in some form of problem behavior. When children exhibit behavioral deficits or excesses, behavioral procedures have been shown to be effective in managing or changing child behavior (i.e., reinforcement and punishment). Although both reinforcement and punishment procedures have been shown to be effective for changing child behavior, some researchers suggest the use of reinforcement over punishment procedures because reinforcement procedures are considered less aversive. However, there is limited evidence to suggest the use of reinforcement over punishment; specifically, research comparing physiological responses to reinforcement and punishment procedures is sparse. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate young children’s physiological responses to procedures involving reward and loss (i.e., differential reinforcement and response cost, respectively). Results of one participant suggest that differential reinforcement may be more stressful than response cost (as indicated by higher levels of galvanic skin response [GSR]); and the results of two participants suggest that the procedures result in equal levels of stress (as indicated by undifferentiated levels of GSR). These results suggest that punishment procedures may not be more stressful to young children than reinforcement procedures and should be equally considered as a treatment option. Keywords: reinforcement, punishment, physiological responses, galvanic skin response




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