Previous research has shown that stimulus preference assessments based on caregiver-opinion did not coincide with results of a more systematic method of assessing reinforcing value unless stimuli that were assessed to represent preferences were also preferred on paired stimulus presentation format, and that the relative preference based on the results of a choice assessment using a concurrent operants paradigm predicts relative reinforcer effectiveness. However, it is not clear whether preference varies under different environmental conditions influencing effectiveness of reinforcement. In the current study, we attempted to address this question by categorizing stimuli as context-dependent and context-independent based on results of preference assessment, and then compared their reinforcing effectiveness in different contexts (home vs. structure of rehabilitation). Independent stimuli, when compared to dependent ones, were more effective in increasing target responses in both contexts. Dependent stimuli consistently functioned as reinforcers only in their corresponding context. These results suggest that establishing operation can be used to predict reinforcing value of various stimuli, which, in turn, may help to improve clinical change.
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