Compound Schedules of Reinforcement on the BCBA Exam
The board certified behavior certification exam requires you to know seven compound schedules of reinforcement. As a BCBA, you must advance beyond simple schedules of reinforcement (fixed ratio, variable ratio, fixed interval, variable interval) and understand the more complex ways we can design reinforcement. Those schedules are:
Concurrent Schedule of Reinforcement
While the other six schedules are paired with one another, concurrent schedules stand alone. Concurrent schedules occur when two or more contingencies of reinforcement occur simultaneously for two or more behaviors
Example: You establish a FR20 FI30 schedule where your client can either choose to complete 20 math problems, or read for 30 minutes.The client has the choice between the two behaviors.
Choice: Concurrent schedules are related to the matching law and are all about choice.
Multiple and Mixed Schedules of Reinforcement
Two or more basic schedules of reinforcement are presented in an alternating, sometimes random, fashion for one or more behaviors. Multiple and Mixed schedules are the same schedules with one exception. An SD is correlated with the schedules in multiple schedules, while no SD is present in Mixed Schedules.
Multiple Schedule Example: While in a classroom, a teacher puts a blue sticky note on the board (SD signaling the schedule) when an FR schedule is available, and then puts a red sticky note (SD) when a VR schedule is available. A multiple schedule would be identical except no sticky notes would be used.
Chained and Tandem Schedules
Chained: Two or more basic schedules occur in a specific order. An SD signals each schedule. Schedules must occur in a specific order!
Example: Entering a phone number and hitting call. This must occur in a specific order.
Tandem: Same thing as chained schedules, except there is not an SD that signals each schedule.
Tandem: VI3 FR6 tandem schedule. After an average of 3 minutes passes, you reinforce after the sixth correct response. These must happen in order!
Alternative and Conjunctive Schedules
Alternative: Reinforcement is delivered when the requirement either a ratio schedule or an interval schedule is met. The either/or schedule with a ratio and an interval!
Example: An alternative FR6 FI5 schedule occurs where you either receive reinforcement after 6 responses, or the first response after 5 minutes.
Conjunctive: Reinforcement is delivered when the requirement of both a ratio schedule and interval schedule is met.
Example: A conjunctive schedule VR3 FI9 where you are reinforced after 9 minutes pass and an average of 3 responses are evoked.
Compound Reinforcement Summary
Compound schedules can be extremely effective when used correctly. BCBAs and BCaBAs need to be expert on creating and implementing all types of compound schedules of reinforcement. On the exam, you will need to know how to identify compound schedules based on the 5th edition task list. Compound schedules can sometimes be used to teach verbal behavior as well, one of the most important things we teach in applied behavior analysis. Reinforcement is our primary method of teaching in ABA, but punishment is sometimes used as well, but must be used effectively and ethically.