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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #255
CE Offered: BACB
Extending Functional Analysis and Treatment to Nonhuman Animals
Sunday, May 27, 2018
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom D
Area: AAB/PRA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Terri M. Bright (MSPCA Angell)
CE Instructor: Terri M. Bright, Ph.D.

For decades, functional analysis and treatment has been the gold standard for identifying environmental causes of problem behavior and developing function-based treatments in human applied settings. While the extension of functional analysis and treatment of nonhuman animals is not new, it is also an area with unlimited opportunity for demonstrating species generality. This symposium presents data-based evidence of successful functional analysis, treatment, and extensions for compulsive behavior in a border collie, feather-plucking in a black vulture, and undesirable vocal behavior in a guinea pig. This symposium presents continued empirical evidence of the utility and feasibility of functional analysis and treatment to nonhuman species.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): functional analysis, pets, reinforcement thinning, zoo
Target Audience:

This symposium is geared toward any animal care professionals as well as professional behavior analysts working with animals (pets or exotics) or having an interest in applied behavior analysis in animals.

Functional Analysis and Treatment of Visual Fixation in a Border Collie
(Applied Research)
LINDSAY RENEE MEHRKAM (Monmouth University), Victoria Self (University of Florida), Nicole R. Dorey (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
Abstract: Visual fixation in border collies presents as a type of canine stereotypy that can lead to poor animal welfare, including self-injurious behavior and strained owner-pet relationships, potentially resulting in relinquishment of the animal. In this study we conducted a multielement and pairwise functional analysis (FA) with a border collie who had a history of engaging in visual fixation around vacuum cleaners. FA results clearly demonstrated that behavior was maintained by movement of the vacuum cleaner. Differential reinforcement of an alternative response (DRA) plus fading in of vacuum cleaner movement was implemented as a function-based treatment for visual fixation, using toy play with a preferred leisure item (determined via a multiple-stimulus without replacement, MSWO, preference assessment) as the alternative response. Our results show an immediate decrease in visual fixation compared to baseline sessions, which is sustained across movement fading levels and which is observed to return to baseline levels during reversal phases. Finally, reinforcement thinning as well as extension phases demonstrated that these low levels of visual fixation were maintained across leaner schedules of praise and across untrained scenarios and during a one-year follow-up. We concluded that DRA plus fading can be a long-term effective treatment for visual fixation in the border collie when treatment is determined via functional analysis methodology. This study also provides further evidence that functional analyses can be used successfully with non-human animals.

Functional Analysis and Treatment of Self-Injurious Feather Plucking in a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

(Applied Research)
KRISTEN LEE MORRIS (Rollins College), Sarah Slocum Freeman (Rollins College)

Feather plucking (FP) is a maladaptive behavior observed in captive avian species. This self-injurious behavior results in damage to and removal of feathers and skin tissue, resulting in animal welfare and financial consequences. The etiology and maintenance of FP have been hypothesized through medical and environmental processes, yet a definitive solution has not been found. The current study investigated the environmental variables maintaining the FP of a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus), as well as evaluated a function-based treatment for this behavior. The behavior was found to be maintained by positive reinforcement in the form of contingent attention. Treatment consisted of noncontingent reinforcement followed by schedule thinning to shape up a treatment schedule more compatible with caretaker's schedules. Results further demonstrate the validity of function-based assessment and treatment with captive animals.


A Functional Analysis and Treatment of a Domestic Pet Guinea Pig's Loud Squeaking Behavior

(Applied Research)
KIMBERLY TRUONG (SEEK Education), Michele D. Wallace (California State University, Los Angeles), James E. King (SEEK Education; University of Nevada, Reno)

In an initial study, a guinea pig's loud squeaking (sometimes called "wheeking") was subjected to a functional analysis assessment and treatment. Loud squeaking occurred in the presence of an auditory stimulus of the rustling of plastic bags followed by food pellet delivery. A functional analysis was inconclusive, but indicated a possible automatic function. Treatment involved differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO) that led to progressive reductions in loud squeaking. In 1-year follow up probes, occurrences of loud squeaking following bag rustling remained low. Subsequently, loud squeaking began to occur in previously unobserved conditions (i.e., opening of the refrigerator door). The current study examined procedures to assess and reduce loud squeaking in the newly observed conditions. Results from the previous and current study, as well as the practitioner's experiences on assessing and treating non-human animal problem behaviors are discussed. Implications are also discussed, including extending applied technologies to guinea pig owners, increasing satisfaction with guinea pig ownership, and reducing surrenders. Additionally, procedures and results indicate utility for functional analysis and behavior interventions for non-humans in a home setting.




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