Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Catia Cividini-Motta, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Cynthia Livingston, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Committee Member

Raymond Miltenberger, Ph.D., BCBA-D


Autism, Independent Responding, Parameter Manipulation, Prompting


The purpose of this paper was to review and synthesize the literature investigating the impact of differential reinforcement on skill acquisition. Specifically, the aim of this review was to determine the most efficient differential reinforcement arrangement for skill acquisition in individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Researchers synthesized the results of 12 articles with the following categories: (a) participant characteristics (i.e.,, age, sex, diagnosis, verbal repertoire, communication modality, receptive and imitation skills, prompt dependency), (b) target behavior information (i.e., target behavior, measurement system), (c) pre-evaluation assessments (i.e., preference assessments, reinforcer assessments, magnitude edible and size assessments), (d) teaching procedures (i.e., teaching format, prompt type, prompt fading procedure, error correction, experimental design, mastery criteria), (e) reinforcer parameters manipulations and class of reinforcers (f) reinforcement conditions, (g) results, and (h) social validity and generalization measures. Across the 12 studies, the majority of the participants were males, had an ASD diagnosis and communicated vocally. The differential reinforcement condition in which reinforcement favored independent responses resulted in the quickest acquisition for the majority of participants. When compared across reinforcer parameters, skill acquisition was quicker when the quality of the reinforcer was manipulated within the differential reinforcement procedure relative to other reinforcer parameters. This review discusses limitations of the previous research, makes recommendation for future research, and summaries implications for clinical practice.