The Effects of Magnitude-Based Differential Reinforcement on the Skill Acquisition of Children with Autism

Kate E. Fiske, Amy P. Cohen, Meredith J. Bamond, Lara Delmolino, Robert H. LaRue, Kimberly N. Sloman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


A common recommendation for teaching skills to children with autism is to apply differential reinforcement by reserving high-quality reinforcement for unprompted responses (Sundberg and Partington in Teaching language to children with autism or other developmental disabilities, Behavior Analysts Inc., Pleasant Hill, 1998). Earlier research focuses primarily on schedules or quality of reinforcement, rather than magnitude of reinforcement, when evaluating the use of differential reinforcement in practice. The utility of magnitude-based differential reinforcement may be dependent upon evidence that a learner responds differentially to large and small amounts of reinforcement such that he or she selects the large amount of reinforcement over the small amount of reinforcement and engages in more responses that produce the relatively larger magnitude reinforcement. Three individuals with autism participated in a treatment comparison of differential reinforcement. The manipulation of magnitude of differential reinforcement in a skill acquisition program did not have an appreciable effect on the rate of acquisition for any of the three participants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-487
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Behavioral Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 8 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


  • Autism
  • Differential reinforcement
  • Progressive-ratio analysis

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