The effects of fixed versus escalating reinforcement schedules on smoking abstinence

Paul Romanowich, R. J. Lamb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Studies indicate that when abstinence is initiated, escalating reinforcement schedules maintain continuous abstinence longer than fixed reinforcement schedules. However, these studies were conducted for shorter durations than most clinical trials and also resulted in larger reinforcer value for escalating participants during the 1st week of the experiment. We tested whether escalating reinforcement schedules maintained abstinence longer than fixed reinforcement schedules in a 12-week clinical trial. Smokers (146) were randomized to an escalating reinforcement schedule, a fixed reinforcement schedule, or a control condition. Escalating reinforcement participants received 5.00 for their first breath carbon monoxide (CO) sample <3 ppm, with a 0.50 increase for each consecutive sample. Fixed reinforcement participants received 19.75 for each breath CO sample <3 ppm. Control participants received payments only for delivering a breath CO sample. Similar proportions of escalating and fixed reinforcement participants met the breath CO criterion at least once. Escalating reinforcement participants maintained criterion breath CO levels longer than fixed reinforcement and control participants. Similar to previous short-term studies, escalating reinforcement schedules maintained longer durations of abstinence than fixed reinforcement schedules during a clinical trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-37
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of applied behavior analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • contingency management
  • differential reinforcement
  • nicotine
  • schedule of reinforcement
  • smoking cessation
  • tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology


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