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 #209
CE Offered: BACB
Improving Healthy Eating and Physical Activity With Reinforcement, Goal Setting, Multiple Stimulus Exposure, and Gamification
Sunday, May 27, 2018
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom G
Area: CSS; Domain: Translational
Chair: Sharlet D. Rafacz (California State University, Fresno)
Discussant: Steven W. Payne (California State University, Fresno)
CE Instructor: Steven W. Payne, Ph.D.

There are multiple health concerns linked to a poor diet and lack of physical activity, including diabetes and heart disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Furthermore, in the United States, people are failing to meet dietary and physical activity guidelines at an alarming rate. The field of Behavior Analysis has conducted some research to increase healthy eating and exercise but more work is needed. The current symposium will present recent advances in this area, including optimal uses of goal setting and reinforcement contingencies for exercise and utilizing gamification and stimulus exposure to increase healthy food selection and consumption. First, Hernandez et al. will present on the differential impact of a negative reinforcement contingency versus goal setting on step count. Peck's study will also target step count, but with adults with a mental health disability, and evaluate the effects of daily goal setting and positive reinforcement. The third study by Assemi et al. looks at healthy food selection, specifically at the effects of health information on shopping behavior and implicit and explicit measures of verbal responding. Finally, the study by Chavira et al., evaluates the effects of gamification and taste exposure on elementary school children's preference for and consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): goal setting, healthy eating, physical activity, taste exposure
Target Audience:

Board Certified Behavior Analysts and others working with adults or children on improving physical activity or healthy eating

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to 1. describe the relative influence of reinforcement and goal setting on physical activity; 2. identify how the IRAP measures relational responding and how educational interventions influence food selection and relational responding; 3. describe examples of taste exposure and gamification interventions and how they influence healthy food consumption.

Comparing the Effects of Negative Reinforcement Contracts and Goal Setting on Increasing Adults' Physical Activity

(Applied Research)
DAVID HERNANDEZ (California State University, Sacramento), Megan R. Heinicke (California State University, Sacramento), Becky Penrod (California State University, Sacramento)

In general, American adults understand that physical activity is good for their health, yet it has been estimated that less than 5% of adults actually meet CDC recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, an exertion level equivalent of a brisk walk. Contingencies that promote problematic behaviors make it difficult for individuals to engage in behavior that would benefit them in the long term. Thus, the application of contingency management strategies in which immediate consequences for healthy behaviors are contrived to compete with problematic competing contingencies, may be effective in increasing behaviors that produce positive cumulative effects. The aim of this study was to compare the effectiveness of experimenter funded negative reinforcement contingency contracts and feedback with a goal setting with feedback intervention. A Fitbit Zip device was used to measure the frequency of daily step total goals met. Goals were individualized and calculated by averaging the steps taken during a screening period increased by a negotiated percentage of a minimum of 20-25% in experiment 1, and a minimum of 50% in experiment 2. Results indicated that participants met their daily step goals more often and on average had higher daily step counts during the contract condition. These findings support the use of negative reinforcement monetary contracts in physical activity interventions.


Using a Fitbit Treatment Package to Increase Physical Activity Engagement in Adults with Mental Health Needs

(Service Delivery)
KIMBERLY PECK (Western Michigan University), Jessica E. Frieder (Western Michigan University), Haley Ciara Hughes (Western Michigan University)

One of the greatest threats to the well-being of mentally-disabled adults is their sedentary lifestyles. In fact, approximately half of all individuals living in community settings do not engage in any type of regular leisurely physical activity (Draheim, Williams, & McCubbin, 2002). As such, research is needed to help increase activity engagement among this population. In 2014, LaLonde et al. increased daily steps of young adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder using goal-setting and contingent incentives. The current study aimed to replicate LaLonde et al. (2014)'s findings, and increase the daily steps of six adult individuals with a mental health disability. These adults ranged in age from 25-80 years. Participants were each given Fitbit tracking device, and tools to assist with tracking steps and preserving the Fitbit. After a baseline period with no goal in place, researchers set a goal based on each individual's average steps per day during baseline. Intervention consisted of setting a daily step goal, and then providing a reward and increasing the goal by ten percent each time it was met. Results showed that the majority of participants were able to double their average steps per week during the course of the study.

The Effect of Educational Videos on Virtual Food Selection and Relational Responding
(Basic Research)
KIAN ASSEMI (California State University, Fresno), Sharlet D. Rafacz (California State University, Fresno)
Abstract: Many interventions for healthy eating include some form of health education. However, while exposure to educational materials changes how people report they feel or behave with respect to healthy eating, it may not improve selection, preparation and consumption behaviors (Peterson, Jeffrey, Bridgewater & Dawson, 1984). The current study assessed how exposure to multiple short videos on either the positive or negative aspects of the macronutrient fat impacted selection behavior in a simulated shopping environment. In addition, implicit and explicit relational responding (verbal behavior) measures were taken before and after treatment. For the explicit measure, participants were given a survey that inquired about their attitudes towards fat. To assess implicit relational responding, participants completed the Implicit Relational Responding Procedure (IRAP) which is a computer-based assessment that presents stimuli on a screen and asks individuals to quickly respond to the relationship between the stimuli. Results of the study indicated that shopping and survey responses changed in the expected direction following the intervention, but implicit relational responding did not. In fact, there was very little correspondence between the IRAP and other results. Implications of this finding will be discussed with respect to the impact of educational interventions on healthy eating and relational responding.
The Effects of Gamification and Taste Exposure on Vegetable Consumption in Children
(Applied Research)
AMANDA GENEVA CHAVIRA (California State University, Fresno), Sharlet D. Rafacz (California State University, Fresno)
Abstract: In 2013, it was reported that 42 million children around the world were considered overweight or obese (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2015). This is a major problem considering childhood eating patterns are predictive of adult eating patterns (Lake et al., 2006). Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to increase healthy eating in school-aged children using gamification via the FIT Game and repeated taste exposure of non-preferred vegetables. Previous research has demonstrated a significant increase in fruit and vegetable consumption using the FIT Game, but these effects have not always maintained (Joyner et. al., 2015). Therefore, it is important to investigate additional strategies, such as taste exposure, that may help sustain healthy eating. The current study conducted a 10-week version of the FIT Game that targeted vegetable consumption with 3rd-5th graders. Taste exposure sessions were run concurrently with 13 students who demonstrated low preference and consumption of vegetables. Results of this study demonstrated that while FIT Game students consumed more vegetables than the control group, the addition of taste exposure sessions resulted in greater increases in consumption and increased preference even for non-targeted vegetables.



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