Sometimes, we want to test the effectiveness of contingent reinforcement. This simply means, is our reinforcing what is maintaining the behavior or it is something else? We would want to know this so we could discontinuous a reinforcement procedure that was either difficult to implement or unnatural. This is important because behavior is more likely to be maintained if it is reinforced by contingencies in the natural environment.
So let’s say we setup a contingency contract for a parent that provided the child with $5 on Friday for making their bed from M-F. The parent asked us to discontinue the procedure because they were making their bed constantly for a few weeks. Before we did so, we wanted to formally conduct an experiment to determine if the $5 was the reason the child was making the bed.
There are two ways that test to see if the $5 was the reason the child was making the bed.
The first thing we could do is DRA/DRI/DRO reversal. This simply means to stop giving them the $5 for making the bed. If they continue the bed, despite not being the $5, that means $5 was not what was at that point maintaining the behavior. If the the behavior decreased, it would mean the $5 was what maintaining the behavior
The second way we could test this would be to use an NCR reversal. This means we would give the child the $5 on Monday, before they engaged in the behavior. If the $5 was what reinforcing the behavior, the behavior would decrease because they got the reinforcer before they engaged in the behavior and no longer had to meet the contingency to get the reinforcer. If the behavior did not decrease, the $5 was not what was reinforcing the behavior.
DRA/DRI/DRO reversals and NCR reversals all test the effectiveness of reinforcement as a control. DRA/DRI/DRO reversals use no reinforcement as the control and NCR reversals uses non-contingent (free reinforcement) as the control.
Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2020). Applied behavior analysis (3rd ed.).