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

Previous Page


Symposium #244
CE Offered: BACB
Prompt-Dependency or Prompt-Maintained Behavior? An Analysis of Prompts as Consequences
Sunday, May 27, 2018
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Seaport Ballroom C
Area: PRA/AUT; Domain: Translational
Chair: Elbert Blakely (Quest, Inc.; Florida Institute Technology)
CE Instructor: Elbert Blakely, Ph.D.

Prompt-dependency is a common problem amongst individuals with developmental disabilities. Individuals who are “prompt-dependent” often appear to simply wait to be prompted rather than engaging in the target behavior, regardless of the power of the reinforcement available to them for completing said behavior. Because practitioners cannot simply allow the individuals they work with to wait indefinitely, prompting often becomes a necessary component in these situations. In this symposium, presenters will posit that we should re-examine the way that we look at prompts and instead of only treating them as an antecedent to the target behaviors, should also explore their impact as a consequence for the behaviors occurring during this “active-waiting” period. Is it possible that the prompts being used to encourage the performance of a target behavior are actually reinforcing the active-waiting behaviors that precede them? Presenters will discuss ways to analyze and treat prompts as consequential stimuli, or reinforcers, and the types of treatment procedures that may be informed by this re-labeling.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): functional analysis, functional assessment, Prompt dependency, prompt-dependency
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) further understand the relationship between prompting and "active waiting"; (2) understand and replicate two types of functional assessments related to prompting; (3) more accurately hypothesize the function of "active waiting."

Evaluating the Use of Signaled Extinction to Promote Independence and Decrease Emotional Responding Associated With Prompt Maintained Behavior

(Applied Research)
TARA OLIVIA LOUGHREY (The Victory Center for Autism and Related Disabilities), Jessica Cadette Dunn (The Victory Center for Autism and Related Disabilities), Maria Soto (The Victory Center for Autism and Related Disabilities)

Prompt maintained behavior is a commonly reported concern for individuals receiving intervention services (Hume, Loftin, & Lantz, 2009). Reliance on adult prompts can contribute to poor long-term outcomes for adults with autism. This study will evaluate the use of signaled extinction (removal of adult prompts) with the use of a work alone card to promote independence and reduction of emotional responding during various activities in which the participant had demonstrated mastery. The intervention was selected following a functional analysis on prompt maintained behavior. Signaled extinction versus a control condition will be evaluated using multielement and reversal designs across different activities with an adolescent with autism in a school setting. The results are discussed in terms of the utility for adolescents and young adults with histories of prompt maintained behavior.


Prompts as Consequences: An Investigation of Stimulus Functions

(Applied Research)
GRANT MICHAEL INGRAM (Florida Institute of Technology), Elbert Blakely (Quest, Inc.)

Traditionally behavior analysts have evaluated prompts in terms of their stimulus properties as antecedent stimuli that evoke a desired response. Indeed, Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2007) defines them as "supplementary antecedent stimuli used to occasion a correct response in the presence of an SD that will eventually control behavior" (p. 287). However, prompts, specifically their termination or presentation, can also be consequences of behavior. For example, the termination of prompts is often an element of the "demand" condition in functional analyses, which have been studied extensively (see Hanley, Iwata, & McCord, 2003 for a review). Moreover, prompts can be delivered as an element of error correction. However, research has not yet investigated whether prompts, apart from other procedures, can function as negative or positive reinforcers. Thus, the current set of experiments evaluates the effects of prompt presentation and termination on tantrum and choice behavior.

A Brief Functional Analysis of Prompt-Maintained Behavior
(Applied Research)
LOGAN MCDOWELL (The Tikvah Center)
Abstract: Prompt dependency, or the tendency for individuals to “actively wait” for prompts rather than engaging in a target behavior, is one potential side effect of prolonged exposure to discrete, trial-based learning. It has been suggested that the term prompt dependency should be replaced by a more function based label, such as prompt-maintained behavior. This change shifts the focus to the behaviors that occur prior to, and are potentially reinforced by, the delivery of a prompt. In this study we attempted to analyze these behaviors using a brief functional analysis. First we identified which behaviors commonly occurred prior to prompting, and then we exposed the participant to different prompt levels dependent upon his performance of those behaviors. Results demonstrated that the participant did not perform the behaviors in the alone condition, and that there was a degree of differentiation in the frequency of these behaviors between the different prompt levels. These results may have important implications when designing treatments for individuals who engage in prompt-maintained behavior.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh