Stimulus Preference Assessment

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Definition: A set of procedures used to determine if one or more stimuli may function to increase the rate of a specific  behavior or behaviors when delivered following the occurrence of that behavior. In general these procedures involve the presentation of one or more stimuli where the person is expected to select the item or stimulus that is “preferred” over the other stimuli present.

Examples of procedures include:  Free operant,  forced choice,  multiple stimulus with replacement,  multiple stimulus without replacement, and  informant methods

Warning:  Stimulus Preference assessments (which are designed to identify the most “preferred”  stimulus from a set of two or more stimuli) are NOT the same as  Reinforcer Assessments.  It is important to note that the stimuli identified via stimulus preference assessment procedures may or may not function as “reinforcers” for a particular response.  They should be considered as “potential” reinforcers and empirically tested for reinforcing effects.


General Practice Guidelines:

1.  Prior to beginning instructional activities it is highly recommended that efforts be made to identify potential reinforcers so that correct/desired responses can be reinforced.


Additional Considerations:


Richard B Graff, Amanda M Karsten
J Appl Behav Anal. 2012 Spring; 45(1): 69–82. doi: 10.1901/jaba.2012.45-69
Katie Snyder, Thomas S Higbee, Elizabeth Dayton
J Appl Behav Anal. 2012 Summer; 45(2): 413–418. doi: 10.1901/jaba.2012.45-413


Heather Jennett, Kathryn Jann, Louis P Hagopian
J Appl Behav Anal. 2011 Winter; 44(4): 925–929. doi: 10.1901/jaba.2011.44-925
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