Three Ways to Find Reinforcers for Your Staff Members’ Performance


By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

Byron Wine, Malanie Reis, and Donald Hantula published a study evaluating three different preference assessment procedures to motivate staff.

In the first experiment, the team compared the effectiveness of three preference assessments — ranking, survey, and multiple stimulus without replacement (MSWO) — with staff working in a residential setting for people diagnosed with developmental disabilities.

The team first compiled a list of eight preferred items by interviewing a number of staff not participating in the study and selected items that were mentioned by two or more staff members.  The list was then used to create the three preference assessments.  Using the survey-based preference assessment, the team provided a questionnaire to staff members asking them to rate on a Likert scale how willing they were to work for the various items.  For the ranking-based method, each staff member was required to simply rank each item from most to least desirable.  Lastly, the MSWO procedure involved writing descriptions of the eight items on index cards and asking staff to select from pairs of cards.  Each selected card was removed from the deck and the process continued until all cards were removed.  The team then reshuffled the cards and presented the array two more times.  Preferences in the MSWO procedure was calculated based on the frequency in which particular cards were selected.

After the three procedures were conducted, the team then had staff members complete work tasks of completing data sheets.  Completed tasks were then followed with highly preferred items.  The team found that all three methods successfully identified effective reinforcers for the staff members’ behavior, though MSWO was the least preferred.

The team then conducted a second experiment with additional staff members using the survey and ranking methods only, along with control stimuli and other methodological adjustments.  The results indicated that both methods successfully identified effective reinforcers for the staff members’ behavior.

So, if you are looking to motivate your staff with preferred items, give these procedures a shot and let us know how they work for you!  As always, leave your comments below and be sure 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 and  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 [email protected].

1 Comment on "Three Ways to Find Reinforcers for Your Staff Members’ Performance"

  1. I would be interested to see examples of the putative reinforcers evaluated in this study!

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