In four studies we analyzed the eye poking of a youth with profound disabilities. In Study 1, a functional analysis showed that eye poking occurred during the no-attention condition, but not during demand, attention, or recreation conditions. The analysis did not identify socially mediated variables involved in the maintenance of eye poking; rather, eye poking may have been maintained by consequences produced directly by the response. In Study 2 we had the student wear goggles to prevent potential reinforcement from finger-eye contact. The results of Study 2 indicated that eye-poking attempts were reduced when the student wore goggles. We then tested in Study 3 the effects of two alternative topographies of stimulation. Study 3 demonstrated that eye poking was reduced when a video game was provided as a competing source of visual stimulation, and that music was less effective in reducing eye poking. In Study 4, a contingency analysis using the video game was conducted in an attempt to (a) reduce the frequency of eye poking and (b) study whether the video game functioned as a reinforcer. The results of Study 4 demonstrated substantive reductions in the frequency of eye poking, and suggested that the video game served as a reinforcer. DESCRIPTORS: self-injury, functional analysis, maintaining variables, private events, students

with severe disabilities

Identification of the condition(s) maintaining self- injury has become the sine qua non ofprogramming for behavior change (Carr, 1977; Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1982; O’Neill, Hor- ner, Albin, Storey, & Sprague, 1990). Once these reinforcers are identified, interventions can focus on manipulating reinforcement contingencies (Iwata, Pace, Cowdery, Kalsher, & Cataldo, 1990; Mace & Lalli, 1991) and/or establishing competing re- sponses for reinforcement (Carr & Durand, 1985; Horner & Day, 1991; Steege, Wacker, Berg, Cig- rand, & Cooper, 1989). Often the consequences identified as maintaining self-injury are mediated by others in a person’s social environment. Such social mediation facilitates the manipulation ofvari- ables maintaining responding and the development of interventions to reduce problem behavior.

This paper is based on a thesis submitted by the second author to the University of Hawaii in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the M.Ed. degree. We would like to thank Jonathan Myasato, Deborah Pang, Loretta Serna, and Joni Wong for their comments on a previous version of this manuscript.

Correspondence should be addressed to Craig H. Kennedy, College of Education, 1776 University Avenue, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822 (E-mail: kenne- dy

In some cases of self-injury, however, the con- sequences maintaining responding may not be readily identifiable (Derby et al., 1992; Iwata et al., 1994). Such instances present a challenge for behavior analysts, because the absence of an iden- tified maintaining variable makes intervention se- lection ambiguous (Favell, McGimsey, & Schell, 1982; Vollmer, Marcus, & LeBlanc, 1994). For example, when a student repeatedly strikes her face in the absence of others, the consequences main- taining responding are unclear. If such a student’s self-injury occurs independent of her social envi- ronment, analysis should indude nonsocial vari- ables that may be associated with behavioral main- tenance. Identifying and manipulating possible reinforcers in such cases are difficult because re- sponding may directly produce the reinforcing con- sequence (Skinner, 1982). However, if some aspect of the reinforcer can be identified as part of a public environment (e.g., the sound produced by manip- ulating an object; Rincover, Cook, Peoples, & Pack- ard, 1979), then that dimension of stimulation can be directly manipulated (e.g., eliminating the sound produced by the object).

The goal of any functional analysis is to identify events related to the maintenance of responding.


1995, 28, 27-37 NUMBER I (SPRING 1995)




When no dear socially mediated reinforcer is iden- tified as a result of an initial functional analysis, continued analyses are warranted in an attempt to discover other maintaining conditions. The goal of additional functional analyses is either to identify a controllable dimension of the maintaining rein- forcer or, at a minimum, to eliminate as many other plausible reinforcement hypotheses as possi- ble. The result of extended analyses should be the identification of a plausible source of reinforcement upon which to base intervention. The resulting in- tervention can then serve as a test of the validity of the hypothesis.

In the current series of four studies, we sought to analyze a persistent case of self-injury that had proven to be difficult to treat because the response appeared to be unrelated to the student’s social environment. The logic of the experimental se- quence was that if the variable maintaining self- injury was not readily demonstrated to be socially mediated, additional analyses were needed to iden- tify a plausible source of reinforcement (Studies 1 through 3). Once a plausible source of reinforce- ment was indicated, we arranged for a topograph- ically similar source of reinforcement to be used as an intervention (Study 4).


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