6 Ways to Improve your Delivery of Non-Contingent Reinforcement

Source: https://flic.kr/p/gEVnAC

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

Non-Contingent Reinforcement (NCR) can be a powerful technique of behavior change.  The crucial element that makes NCR effective is that it breaks, or dilutes, the contingency between a target behavior and contingent consequences.  

This is accomplished by delivering the consequences that were maintaining the target behavior on a time-based schedule, independent of the behavior itself.  In this way, the individual can gain access to similar types of consequences that he/she was getting through disruptive behavior.

But do you know how to use it correctly?  Sam Blanco, MSED, BCBA at Different Roads provides a few best practices, which are briefly described below:

1) Match the Function — Specifically, match the function of the behavior targeted for reduction.  In other words, if the target behavior is maintained by attention, provide attention on an NCR schedule.

2) Be Clear on Delivery Method — Part of the delivery method will be informed by the function, but another aspect is the schedule of NCR delivery — will it be constant or at particular time intervals?  Regardless of the interval, the crucial aspect is that NCR occurs independent of the target behavior.

3) Assess with Data — How do you know if your NCR procedure is effective?  You need to take data!  To do this, you need to be clear on your target behavior(s) and replacement behaviors and the specific features you will measure (e.g., rate, duration, intensity, etc…).

4) Ecological Effects — For example, if you provide NCR in the form of attention for a particular student at school, the other students may react in less-than-desirable ways.

5) Have an End Game — You can’t run NCR forever.  It needs to be faded eventually.  Be clear on when and how this is to be done.  #3 above is crucial in this regard.

6) Read the Literature — Ensure your NCR procedure is informed by peer-reviewed research in reputable journals like the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and others.

Be sure to check out the full article and let us know if you think anything is missing from this list in the comments below!  Also don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox.


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at todd.ward@bsci21.org.

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1 Comment

  1. Lalli , Casey and Kates,1997 is a great study . Used NCR plus extinction successfully to reduce severe problem behavior in 2 participants. Used NCR plus extinction and eventually thinned the NCR schedule to low levels seen in natural environment.
    Kahng, Iwata, Thompson and Hanley 2000 is another great reference.

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