Behavioral momentum in computer-presented discriminations in individuals with severe mental retardation

UMMS Affiliation

Shriver Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; *Behavior; *Computers; *Discrimination Learning; Female; Humans; *Mental Retardation; Photic Stimulation; Reinforcement (Psychology); Severity of Illness Index


Mental and Social Health


Behavioral momentum was examined in 2 individuals with severe mental retardation via within-subject manipulations of obtained reinforcer rates. Subjects performed self-paced discrimination problems presented on a touch screen computer monitor. Two different problems, Tasks A and B, alternated in blocks of 15 trials on a multiple schedule. Reinforcers were snack foods. The reinforcement schedule for Task A was continuous (fixed-ratio 1) and the schedule for Task B was continuous in some conditions and variable ratio in other conditions. Behavioral momentum was assessed in test sessions by prefeeding, presenting response-independent food, and making available alternatives to the tasks. When the obtained reinforcer rate for Task A was at least twice that for Task B, resistance to change was greater for Task A. When both reinforcer rates and response rates were a pproximately equal for the two tasks, resistance to change was approximately equal. These results are consistent with behavioral momentum effects. They extend previous findings with humans by examining momentum in self-initiated discrete-trial discrimination tasks with ratio schedules, and by isolating relative reinforcer rates as a controlling variable via within-subject manipulations.

DOI of Published Version



J Exp Anal Behav. 2001 Jan;75(1):15-23. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID