Reduction of dangerously aggressive behavior in a severely retarded resident through a combination of positive reinforcement procedures

J Appl Behav Anal. Fall 1971;4(3):215-25. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1971.4-215.


A severely retarded resident was released from a timeout chair only occasionally for brief periods of time. Under the timeout contingency alone, the subject made a choke response within minutes of being released. Attention, such as hugs, smiles, and candy was then increased, first by providing it non-contingently and continuously as long as there were no aggressive responses and then, by making it contingent upon incompatible responses. Under conditions of timeout plus increased attention, choking decreased aburptly. Grabbing responses, which increased when choking was reduced, were also reduced under conditions of timeout plus attention. Unrestrained time was gradually increased and all extra attention, i.e., more scheduled attention than provided other residents, was gradually withdrawn. When the resident was unrestrained all day and all extra attention was withdrawn, grabs and, to a lesser extent, chokes increased. Both were again reduced to a manageable level by scheduling several brief periods of attention each day. Hence, the program resulted in quick reductions that endured when the program was largely withdrawn. The changes in aggressive responding as a function of the presence and absence of extra attention suggest the importance of extra "positive reinforcement" in programs based upon positive reinforcement procedures and dealing with retarded residents for whom positive reinforcers may be scarce.