The effects of percentile versus fixed criterion schedules on smoking with equal incentive magnitude for initial abstinence

Paul Romanowich, R. J. Lamb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Incentives have been successfully used to reduce smoking in hard-to-treat (HTT) smokers by progressively reinforcing lower levels of breath carbon monoxide (CO). When compared with schedules only providing incentives for smoking abstinence, using a progressive (percentile) criterion facilitates longer periods of smoking abstinence. However, participants receiving incentives for lower breath CO levels on percentile schedules typically earn more for their first abstinent breath CO sample relative to participants receiving incentives only for smoking abstinence. Many studies show that larger incentive magnitude increases abstinence rates. The present study tested the effects of different incentive schedules on rates of abstinence maintenance while holding the initial incentive magnitude constant for 93 HTT smokers to eliminate initial abstinence incentive magnitude as a potential confound. Smokers were randomized to percentile, fixed criterion, or random incentive schedules. The incentive magnitude for the first abstinent breath CO sample (<3 ppm) was $5 for percentile and fixed criterion incentive participants, and then increased by $0.50 for each consecutive abstinent breath CO sample. All groups had similar patterns of meeting the abstinence criterion for at least 1 visit. However, once this abstinence criterion was met, abstinence was more likely to be maintained by fixed criterion incentive participants. Unlike previous studies comparing percentile and fixed criterion schedules, percentile incentive schedules were not associated with longer periods of abstinence relative to fixed criterion incentive schedules. Further studies that manipulate initial incentive magnitude are needed to test whether the difference between the current and previous studies was due to initial incentive magnitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-355
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Carbon monoxide
  • Cigarettes
  • Contingency management
  • Fixed criterion schedules
  • Hard-to-treat
  • Incentives
  • Initial abstinence
  • Percentile schedules
  • Shaping
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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