Preference for fixed or variable delays to reinforcement in a delayed gratification task

Impulsive behavior in young children has been decreased in self-control training procedures that delay reinforcement gradually over time. Such procedures typically utilize fixed delays to reinforcement during training trials. The purpose of the present study was to examine preferences between fixed and variable delay schedules to reinforcement with five children with autism. During the first phase of the study, children were asked to make a choice between receiving a reinforcer immediately or after a delay. During the second phase, children were asked to make a choice between a fixed or variable delay schedule to reinforcement by sitting on one of two corresponding sitting squares associated with each schedule. Though two participants did select to delay reinforcement, findings indicate that immediate reinforcement was more preferred than delayed reinforcement. However, no group consensus for a variable delay preference was found. Results showed two participants preferring the fixed delay, two preferring the variable delay, and one showing no preference for either.