Preference for and Efficacy of Accumulated and Distributed Response–Reinforcer Arrangements During Skill Acquisition

  • Michelle A. Frank-Crawford
  • John C. BorreroEmail author
  • Eli T. Newcomb
  • Ting Chen
  • Jonathan D. Schmidt
Original Paper


We evaluated preference for and efficacy of distributed and accumulated response–reinforcer arrangements during discrete-trial teaching for unmastered tasks. During the distributed arrangement, participants received 30-s access to a reinforcer after each correct response. During accumulated arrangements, access was accrued throughout the work period and delivered in its entirety upon completion of the work requirement. Accumulated arrangements were assessed with and without the use of tokens. In Experiment 1, four of five participants preferred one of the accumulated arrangements and preference remained unchanged across mastered and unmastered tasks for all five participants. Four individuals participated in Experiment 2 and we conducted replications with new target stimuli with three of these individuals (for a total of seven analyses). Target stimuli were mastered more quickly and session durations were, on average, shorter in one of the accumulated arrangements in six of the seven analyses. Partial correspondence between preference and measures of efficacy and efficiency was obtained for two of the three individuals for whom both experiments were conducted. These results support prior research, indicating that many learners with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities prefer accumulated reinforcement and that accumulated arrangements can be as effective and as efficient as distributed arrangements in teaching new skills.


Accumulated reinforcement Acquisition Discrete-trial teaching Distributed reinforcement Preference Tokens 



This research was conducted as part of the first author’s requirements for a doctoral degree in Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. We would like to thank Andrew Bonner, Anita Louie, Elizabeth Nudelman, and Rashanique Reese for their assistance with data collection and analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Kennedy Krieger InstituteBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.The Faison CenterRichmondUSA
  4. 4.Johns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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