Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates of Responding (DRL)

Have you ever had your child, or any child really, ask you 100 questions in rapid fire succession? Have you ever had a student who raises their hand to answer every question in the lesson, and then becomes frustrated when they haven’t been called on each time? Most of us are not alone in answering these questions with a yes, because these are pretty common situations to find ourselves in. Enter, differential reinforcement of low rates of responding (DRL). Simply put; do this, but not so much, or not so often!

DRL has three different procedure components; Full-Session DRL, Interval DRL, and Spaced-Responding DRL. One of the best components of DRL is the fact that the reinforcement is not delivered based on the nonexistence of the behavior, but delivered when the behavior is below a set criterion. Let’s look at Full-Session DRL in a little more depth. In this specific procedure, reinforcement will be delivered at the end of the session, so long as the behavior occurred at or below a specified number of responses. For instance, a student leaves their seat without permission quite a lot and that starts to distract others in the room. After collecting data to see how many times the student gets of out of their seat, we determine an appropriate amount that would be allowed during a specified time frame. Using a Full-Session DRL procedure, the specified reinforcer would only be delivered if the student got out of his/her seat at the specified amount, or lower. If the out of seat behavior happened more than the specified amount, then reinforcement would be withheld!

This procedure would be great to use for behaviors that do not need to occur at zero rates, or simply need to lower the rate at which with they occurring.

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2014). Applied behavior analysis (pp. 492-493). Edinburgh gate: Pearson educational international.