Patterns of behavior that persist during transition to a new set of contingencies are referred to as reinforcement history or carryover effects. The authors examined the carryover effects of a fixed-time (FT) schedule of free reinforcement on children's work completion and accuracy. Two female students with learning disabilities participated. During an initial concurrent-choice condition, both children completed more difficult problems reinforced on a richer schedule than easy problems reinforced on a leaner schedule. Exposure to an FT schedule was alternated with subsequent choice conditions in an ABABA design to examine potential carryover effects. During FT conditions, the children completed both types of problems with more errors. During subsequent choice conditions, errors were high initially but decreased, and both children completed easy problems for the first few sessions despite their leaner reinforcement schedule. The potential for detrimental effects of free reinforcement on children's work completion is discussed.
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