Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Peterson

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling

Third Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Pietras

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Claire St. Peter


Resurgence, Relapse, Reinforcement, Differential reinforcement, Reinforcement schedule, Schedule effects


Resurgence is the reemergence of a previously extinguished response when an alternative response no longer produces reinforcement. Although returning to previously successful methods for obtaining reinforcement is likely advantageous, resurgence also occurs in the form of treatment relapse. An individual may return to problematic behavior (e.g., aggression, self-injury, drug use) when an alternative behavior (e.g., communication response, coping skill, social behavior, etc.) is no longer successful at producing a reinforcer. Behavior analysts rely on treatments based on differential reinforcement of alternative behavior, and resurgence has been demonstrated following changes to reinforcement schedules due to errors in treatment integrity or intentional fading of the schedule, which is often recommended for the ease of treatment delivery. Identifying effective behavior-change methods that also reduce the potential for treatment relapse would contribute to the social utility of these interventions. Research with nonhuman animals suggests that the arrangement of alternative reinforcement affects the degree of resurgence obtained during an extinction test. Little research has been done on this question with humans. Experiment 1 compared three different alternative reinforcement schedules to determine the effects on resurgence (RI 5 s, RI 30 s, or RI 60s). Experiment 2 assessed the effects of the addition of an aversive auditory stimulus with two different groups of alternative reinforcement density (RI 5 s or RI 60 s).

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access