Ferber Techniqueeffect

American pediatric sleep researcher Richard Ferber (1944- ) developed this procedure (sometimes called "Ferberization") for training an infant to be self-reliant and to sleep on its own. The Ferber technique/effect requires that the care-giver place the infant in its crib, then leave the room and ignore the infant's crying for at least 20 minutes. Subsequently, the care-giver returns to the crib, pats the infant on the back, but doesn't pick it up, and then leaves the room quickly. This procedure is repeated every night, increasing the waiting period by five minutes per night before responding to the infant's crying with patting. This often controversial child-care practice is similar, theoretically, to a modification of the operant/behavioral conditioning procedure called "fading" used in stimulus control and errorless discrimination learning situations (where discriminative stimuli are "faded out" gradually) but, in this case, fading occurs by slowly extending (fading out) the waiting time period before the reinforcing stimulus (pat or attention given by the care-giver) is administered. The Ferber technique/effect seems to work for some infants, but not for others. See also BEHAVIORIST THEORY; ERRORLESS DISCRIMINATION LEARNING, PHENOMENON OF; LEARNING THEORIES/LAWS; PUNISHMENT, THEORIES OF; REINFORCEMENT THEORY. REFERENCES

Terrace, H. S. (1963). Errorless transfer of a discrimination across two continua. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 6, 223-233. Ferber, R. (1985/1986). Solve your child's sleep problem. New York: Simon & Schuster/Fireside.

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