Reward Dominance Task


This computer task was developed for use in studies of children and adolescents to assess their sensitivity to cues of punishment, after a reward oriented response set is primed.    The task consists of four games and participants are allowed to earn prizes based on their scores across all four games.   In each game, a stimulus (e.g., a fisherman) appears on the screen and the child chooses whether or not to press a key to view the other side of the stimulus (e.g., reel in the fishing pole) or to press a key to stop the game.  For each game, there is a successful outcome (e.g., a fish) or an unsuccessful outcome (e.g., no fish) on the other side of the stimulus.  Each child begins with 50 points, and a point is either added or taken away, depending on the outcome of each trial. The proportion of successful outcomes across each successive ten trials decreases from 90% to 0% over 100 trials.

Across the four games, a forced 5 second pause between each trial (i.e., pause condition) and the presence of a visual tally of the number of points won (i.e., cue condition) are varied. The program is designed to be given in four different orders which vary the pause and cue conditions.  However, you can manually override this and type a desired order of presentation.   The presentation of conditions in each order:


  Type of Stimulus
Order Card Door Box Fishing
1 No cue/No pause No Cue / Pause Cue / No pause Cue/Pause
2 Cue/Pause No cue/No pause No Cue / Pause Cue / No pause
3 Cue / No pause Cue/Pause No cue/No pause No Cue / Pause
4 No Cue / Pause Cue / No pause Cue/Pause No cue/No pause


Scores for Analyses

The total number of trials played is recorded and used as a dependent variable in  analyses because this serves as an index of continued playing despite an increased ratio of punished (loss of point) to rewarded (gain of point) trials.

Material Necessary for Task

Instructions for Subjects

RDT Program FIles   To download these (compressed) files, you need to right-click or otherwise select “Save to disk.”

Publications Using Task

Frick, P.J., Cornell, A.H., Bodin, S.D., Dane, H.A., Barry, C.T., & Loney, B.R. (2003). Callous-Unemotional traits and developmental pathways to severe aggressive and antisocial behavior.  Developmental Psychology, 39, 246-260.

O’Brien, B. S. & Frick, P.J. (1996). Reward dominance: Associations with anxiety, conduct problems, and psychopathy in children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 24, 223-240.

O’Brien, B.S., Frick, P.J., & Lyman, R.D. (1994). Reward dominance among children with disruptive behavior disorders. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 16, 131-145.