Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Mark W. Steege PhD

Second Advisor

Rebekah Bickford PsyD

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Cameron


Ear plugging behavior, headphones, behavioral programming, PsyD


This current study presents a single case comprehensive functional behavioral assessment of ear plugging behavior that began with the application of traditional functional analysis technology and followed the function based treatment recommendations through a systematic treatment analysis. Results of the functional analysis indicated that the behavior was maintained by automatic positive reinforcement (i.e. ear plugging behaviors produced a reinforcing sensory consequence). These data were in contrast to prior clinical impressions that the individual’s ear plugging behaviors were maintained by automatic negative reinforcement (i.e. ear plugging served to block aversive auditory stimuli). To test hypothesis that headphones were functionally equivalent with ear plugging, a treatment analysis phase was conducted. The treatment analysis included an alternating treatments design, to assess the relative effectiveness of contingent access to headphones, contingent access to an activity (i.e. video), and noncontingent access to headphones for increasing task performance and decreasing ear plugging. The results of the treatment analysis supported the use of headphones as a reinforcer for increasing task performance and decreasing ear plugging behaviors. The results were then replicated in the natural setting using a multiple baseline assessment across three functional activities in the student’s educational environment. The implications of the current study had lasting impact on the student’s behavioral programing in the educational setting and dramatically changed the way that the educational team conceptualized the use of headphones as an intervention.