Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #484
Recent Findings in Behavioral Economics: Methodological Innovations, Schedule-Dependent Choice, and E-Cigarette Abuse Liability
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
Zurich E, Swissotel
Area: EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Jeffrey S. Stein (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute)
Abstract: Behavioral economics, or the study of the allocation of behavior under constraint, provides a framework for basic and applied science to understand, predict, and influence behavior. For any given commodity, variations in income and price (broadly defined; e.g., money, time, effort) determine quantity of consumption and preference between choice options. This framework identifies clear targets for intervention and has been used to study a wide range of human problem behavior. In this symposium, we discuss a diverse set of recent findings from this field. Topics include: (1) development of a novel hypothetical purchase task in which price is defined as effort, allowing rapid assessment of demand for a wide range of commodities (including money); (2) assessments of preference between predictable and unpredictable ratio schedules of reinforcement in autism, in which preference for sameness in this disorder is pitted against known preference for unpredictable ratio reinforcement in the general population; and (3) assessments of demand for electronic cigarettes in response to potential health risks and regulatory policies.
Keyword(s): behavioral economics, demand, electronic cigarettes, reinforcement schedules
Alternative Forms of Price: Using Hypothetical Effort to Assess Demand in Humans
JILLIAN RUNG (Utah State University), Gregory J. Madden (Utah State University)
Abstract: Recent experiments measuring individual-subject level demand for goods do so by obtaining consumption across different prices by varying the monetary cost per unit of the good. This characterization of price constrains our ability to assess the value of other important reinforcers such as money. In the present experiment, we developed a means of assessing demand that is independent of monetary cost by expressing price in terms of the degree of physical effort exerted. Undergraduate students recruited from a local university completed hypothetical purchase tasks to assess demand for both food and money. Demand for food was assessed using both a traditional hypothetical purchase task and our novel effort-purchase task. Demand for money was assessed using only the effort-purchase task. Our results show that money has higher essential value than food. Convergent and construct validity of the effort-purchase task is discussed, in addition to applications in which assessing demand in terms of effort may have clinical and theoretical utility.

Assessing Schedule-Dependent Choice: Unpredictable Versus Predictable Response Requirements

ADAM THORNTON BREWER (Florida Institute of Technology), David M. Richman (Texas Tech University), Michael W. Schlund (University of North Texas), Yanerys Leon (Florida Institute of Technology), Ashley Tudor (Private Practice), Andrea Hudspeth (Project HOPE Foundation/Florida Institute of Technology)

Individuals with autism-spectrum disorders are reported to exhibit intolerance for uncertainty. The current study sought to assess whether this construct is related to preference for positive reinforcement schedules with predictable response requirements over unpredictable reinforcement schedules. Predictable reinforcement schedules were comprised of a fixed-ratio (FR) schedule in which emission of the same number of consecutive responses was required to earn a reinforcer; the response requirement remained constant across trials. By contrast, unpredictable schedules were arranged by using random-ratio (RR) schedules that varied the response requirement across trials, but averaged a particular number of responses across trials. Using a concurrent chains procedure, choice allocation was assessed in 5 adults with ASD between FR and RR schedules that both required 10 responses on touchscreen monitor to earn a nickel per trial. Mixed results were obtainedperhaps, due to equal unit prices. A future direction is to conduct behavioral economic price manipulations to address this concern.

Predicting E-Cigarette Consumption in an Uncertain Future: Potential Health Risks and Regulatory Policies Modulate Behavioral Economic Demand and Substitution
JEFFREY S. STEIN (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute), Marianne Vannoy (Jefferson College of Health Sciences), Warren K. Bickel (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Department of Psychology, Virginia Tech)
Abstract: Little is known about how demand for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) is influenced by their perceived health risks, their utility for smoking cessation, or regulation of their use. In the present study, cigarette smokers (N = 109; all naive-e-cigarette users) on Amazon Mechanical Turk read hypothetical scenarios describing: (1) relative harm from e-cigarettes (i.e., less vs. as harmful as conventional cigarettes), (2) e-cigarettes' efficacy for smoking cessation (i.e., helps vs. does not help people quit smoking), (3) governmental policy regulating the sale of flavored e-cigarette products (i.e., flavors are vs. are not allowed), and (4) workplace restriction of e-cigarette use (i.e., allowed vs. not allowed indoors). Participants were asked to assume these scenarios were true and subsequently completed hypothetical purchase tasks to estimate own-price elasticity of conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes (i.e., sensitivity to increases of each product's own price), as well as e-cigarette cross-price elasticity (i.e., sensitivity of price-constant e-cigarettes to increases in the price of conventional cigarettes). In each task, participants rated the probability that they would purchase a single disposable e-cigarette or a pack of cigarettes across a range of cigarette or e-cigarette prices. We observed lower own-price elasticity for e-cigarettes (i.e., higher demand) when they were described as less harmful, efficacious as a smoking-cessation aid, were available in flavors, and were allowed indoors in the workplace. Likewise, each of these conditions increased the degree to which e-cigarettes substituted for conventional cigarettes. Combinatorial effects of these conditions will also be presented, as well as implications of these data for regulation of e-cigarette use.



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