What Is a Group Contingency?

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A group contingency specifies the contingent relationship between the completion of a given task or specified behavior and access to a specific reward. It describes both the tasks and the reward to be given. There are three types of group contingency: dependent, interdependent and independent. The reward is given to an individual, a small group or to the entire group that has completed a given task. This method is commonly applied in educational settings to manage classroom behavior.

1 Dependent Group Contingency

Dependent group contingency occurs when you reward the whole group equally based on the performance of one person or selected group members. For example, you can reward the whole class with free-time activities if, say, an individual who normally performs poorly in science earns a 70 on an exam. If the person fails, there is no reward. You could also divide the class in groups and reward the entire class if one of the groups completes a given task. The advantage is that every student is rewarded under the same conditions, thus using peer pressure to help control behavior.

2 Independent Group Contingency

In independent group contingency, the terms of participation apply to everyone in the classroom, but you will reward each student who has completed a given task independently. This method is very common, and it ensures that each student is responsible for his own actions. For example, you can tell your students to follow certain rules when they are in class, such as dressing appropriately, and when they obey the rules they earn points that can then be used to buy rewards.

3 Interdependent Group Contingency

In interdependent group contingency, you give tasks to individuals within a given group and set the behavior expectations and the reward to be given. All members of the group must finish the designated goal before they can earn a reward. All members in a given group will receive the same reward. The disadvantage with this method is that everyone in the group is held accountable if one person fails to perform. For example, you can allow the class to hold a party at the end of the year if each student in the classroom gets above 80 percent in end-of-year exams.

4 Effectiveness of Group Contingency

Group contingency has been found to be effective in classrooms because it helps you to monitor the behavior of students. It is economical, practical and efficient. Research done on behavior analysis using group contingency has shown that group contingencies decrease inappropriate behavior and increase good behavior, and can even improve classroom success. For example, in 1986, a study compared the effectiveness of the different types of group contingencies. Fifty-three sixth-grade education students were given a spelling test and conditions for a reward. The research indicated that all the three types of group contingency were effective, as they enhanced the performance of the students. It is not, however, clear which method is more effective.

Harold Debbi has been writing professionally since 2001. His articles have featured in the "Daily Express," "Good Housekeeping," "The Mirror" and "The People." Debbi holds a Masters of Arts in journalism from the University of Cambridge.