Reinforcer rate effects and behavioral momentum in individuals with developmental disabilities

UMMS Affiliation

Shriver Center



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Adolescent; Adult; Behavior Therapy; Child; Female; Humans; Male; Mental Disorders; Mental Retardation; *Reinforcement (Psychology)


Mental and Social Health | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry and Psychology


Behavioral momentum theory states that behavioral resistance to change is positively related to reinforcer rate and independent of response rate under most circumstances. We examined behavioral momentum in humans with developmental disabilities. The experimental procedures were implemented as a computer game. Different rates of positive reinforcement were programmed in two alternating components signaled by distinctive cues. For 10 participants who successfully completed testing, resistance to disruption by an alternate source of reinforcement was greater in the component with the higher reinforcer rate, although the magnitude of the difference varied among individuals. These results confirm reinforcer rate effects consistent with behavioral momentum under laboratory conditions and with the largest number of human beings with developmental disabilities studied to date.

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Citation: Am J Ment Retard. 2003 Mar;108(2):134-43. Link to article on publisher's website

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