Updated: Mar 4
This past week for my Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) part one course in college, I learned about differential reinforcement. Also, I learned differential reinforcement procedures applied in ABA therapy. So, what is differential reinforcement?
Differential reinforcement means reinforcing specific social behaviors/responses in a particular situation or event while withholding reinforcement for other target behaviors/responses. Differential reinforcement is used to increase social behaviors/responses while reducing target behaviors/responses that are in the way of learning.
There are five differential reinforcement procedures applied in real world situations:
Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior (DRA): teach an individual an alternative or replacement behavior/response, and they are reinforced for that behavior/response. DO NOT provide reinforcement for target behavior/response. For example, Abby learns to raise her hand instead of calling out (target behavior). She is reinforced for raising her hand. She would not be reinforced for calling out.
Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior (DRO): an individual is reinforced for any other behavior/response that is not the target behavior/response in a specific time period. DO NOT provide reinforcement for target behavior/response. For example, Justin hits his older brother (target behavior). If Justin puts his hands in his pocket instead of hitting his older brother, then he is reinforced.
Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behavior (DRI): an individual is reinforced for any behavior/response incompatible with the target behavior/response. For example, Thomas puts his hands in his mouth (target behavior). Tommy learns to hold a stimming toy in his hands. If Tommy holds a stimming toy in his hands instead of putting his hands in his mouth, then he is reinforced. If he puts his hands in his mouth, then redirect him to use a stimming toy and do not provide attention.
Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates of Responding (DRL): an individual is reinforced when frequency of target behavior/response decreases at a set time interval. This is used to decrease the target behavior/response. For example, Vince washes his hands five times in a half hour before lunch (target behavior). If Vince washes his hands only one time in a half hour before lunch, then he is reinforced.
Differential Reinforcement of High Rates of Responding (DRH): an individual is reinforced when demonstrating a social behavior/response in a time interval. This is used to increase a social behavior/response. For example, Jack does not raise his hand to participate in science class much. He only raises his hand once in a 50-minute science block, so the set criterion is two. If he raises his hand twice to respond to questions during that block of time, then he is reinforced.
Now that you learned about these differential reinforcement procedures, would you use them? When would you use them? Share your thoughts in the comments section!