False-positive maintenance of self-injurious behavior by access to tangible reinforcers

Melissa J. Shirley, Brian A. Iwata, Sung Woo Kahng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Results of a functional analysis indicated that the hand mouthing of a woman with developmental disabilities was maintained by multiple sources of control (sensory stimulation and access to a leisure item). Further assessment revealed that access to several other items also produced high rates of hand mouthing. However, direct observation conducted in the woman's home indicated that none of these items was delivered contingent upon hand mouthing. When the consequence observed most frequently in the home was incorporated into the functional analysis, rates of hand mouthing were no higher than they were during an alone condition. We concluded that hand mouthing, although maintained by automatic reinforcement, was also susceptible to social contingencies when exposed to them during assessment, thereby producing a partially false-positive outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-204
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology


  • Functional analysis
  • Incidental reinforcement
  • Self-injurious behavior


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