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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #53
CE Offered: BACB
An Evaluation of Individual and Synthesized Reinforcement Contingencies During the Assessment and Treatment of Destructive Behavior
Saturday, May 25, 2019
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Lobby Level, Crystal Ballroom C
Area: DDA/EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Katherine Brown (Munroe Meyer Institute)
Discussant: Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
CE Instructor: Wayne W. Fisher, Ph.D.

Functional-analysis methodology allows researchers and clinicians to identify the functional variables maintaining severe destructive behavior (e.g.., self-injurious behavior). Several researchers have expanded upon Iwata et al.’s (1982/1994) initial functional-analysis paper to improve the efficacy and efficiency of functional-analysis procedures, including combining individual consequences (e.g., escape to attention) within test and control conditions (i.e., synthesized contingency analysis) as opposed to the traditional approach of evaluating individual contingencies (e.g., escape alone, attention alone). Recently, Hanley et al. (2014) detailed an approach to developing and assessing destructive behavior known as interview-informed synthesized contingency analysis, which uses caregiver or other stakeholder report and observation to inform the test and control conditions within the synthesized contingency analysis. Though several studies have shown that such an approach can result in brief assessments and clinically significant treatment effects (e.g., Jessel et al. 2018; Rose & Beaulieu, 2018), other studies have highlighted possible limitations to the methodology, such as including potentially irrelevant reinforcers during assessment and treatment (Fisher et al., 2016; Greer et al., in press). This symposium collects applied and translational comparisons of individual and synthesized contingencies from different research groups to further evaluate the correspondence between the approaches, including the benefits and limitations of each strategy.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): functional analysis, functional assessment, IISCA, synthesized contingency
Target Audience:

The target audience for this symposium is comprised of researchers and clinicians who conduct functional analyses within their research and practice, or other behavior analysts who wish to learn about the potential benefits and and limitations of individual and synthesized contingency analyses.

Learning Objectives: Audience members will learn (1) the potential benefits and limitations of using individual contingencies during functional analysis, (2) the potential benefits and limitations of using synthesized contingencies during synthesized contingency analysis, and (3) information regarding the correspondence between the two methodologies.
A Comparison of Isolated and Synthesized Contingencies in Functional Analyses
KATHLEEN HOLEHAN (University of Kansas), Claudia L. Dozier (University of Kansas), Sara Camille Diaz de Villegas (University of Kansas), Rachel Jess (University of Kansas), Kelsey Shinnick (University of Kansas), Elizabeth Foley (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Since Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, and Richman (1982/1994) developed the first comprehensive functional analysis methodology, researchers have suggested various procedural modifications to increase the efficacy and efficiency of FAs (Beavers, Iwata, & Lerman, 2013). In a series of recent studies, Hanley and colleagues have evaluated the efficacy of a FA methodology termed the interview-informed synthesized contingency analysis (IISCA; e.g., Hanley, Jin, Vanselow, & Hanratty, 2014), which involves conducting (a) an open-ended interview to determine potential antecedents, consequences, and precursors to target problem behavior, (b) a brief observation based on the interview results, and (c) test and control conditions that involve synthesized contingencies (as determined by interview and observation). A limitation of this methodology is the necessity of synthesizing contingencies is unknown. We extended Fisher et al. (2016) and Slaton, Hanley, and Raferty (2017) by comparing the outcomes of FAs that involved isolated versus synthesized contingencies, then compared the effects of function-based interventions based on the outcomes for problem behavior of five children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. To date, results suggest that synthesized contingencies were not necessary to show discriminated responding for most participants, and function-based treatments based on isolated contingencies were effective for decreasing problem behavior.
Comparisons of Standardized and Interview-Informed Synthesized Reinforcement Contingencies Relative to Traditional Functional Analysis
ADAM M. BRIGGS (Eastern Michigan University), Brian D. Greer (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Daniel R. Mitteer (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Andrew Sodawasser (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Abstract: We compared the functions of problem behavior identified by (a) a functional analysis (FA), (b) an interview-informed synthesized contingency analysis (IISCA) that was informed by the results of an open-ended interview and a structured observation, and (c) a standardized-synthesized contingency analysis (SSCA) in which we synthesized three common functions of problem behavior across 12 consecutive individuals. In doing so, we addressed questions about the necessity of synthesized contingency analysis for determining behavioral function and the utility of the assessments informing synthesis. Synthesized contingency analysis was necessary for 0 of the 12 participants to identify the variables maintaining problem behavior, replicating the findings of Fisher, Greer, Romani, Zangrillo, and Owen (2016). Error type (i.e., false positives, false negatives) and prevalence were similar across functions identified by the IISCA and those from the SSCA, calling into question the utility of the open-ended interview and the structured observation that informed the IISCA. We discuss the implications of these and other findings relative to the variables reinforcing problem behavior and FA methodology.
A Comparative Evaluation of Functional Analytic Methods
ELIZABETH MCKAY SANSING (University of North Texas), Karen A. Toussaint (University of North Texas), Crysta Perkins (University of North Texas), Maggie Nye (University of North Texas)
Abstract: An extensive amount of research in the functional analysis literature has demonstrated that problem behavior is often sensitive to single reinforcement contingencies. Nevertheless, there is a growing body of research that suggests that problem behavior is sensitive to unique combinations of individual reinforcement contingencies, referred to as a synthesized contingency. Researchers have conducted comparative analyses examining the correspondence between the two methods, but the results are mixed (Fisher et al., 2016; Slaton, Hanley, & Rafferty, 2017). Additional research is needed to compare the outcomes of each approach in order to provide clarity. The purpose of the current study was to further evaluate the use of two different functional analytic methods: the individual-contingency functional analysis (FA) and the interview-informed synthesized contingency analysis (IISCA). We compared the results of each analysis for five individuals who engaged in problem behavior. Results suggests that problem behavior was maintained by individual reinforcement contingencies for all five participants. In addition, we evaluated a subsequent function-based treatment that reduced problem behavior by 90% for all five individuals.

A Translational Evaluation of Potential Iatrogenic Effects of Single and Combined Contingencies During Functional Analyses

BILLIE RETZLAFF (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Jessica Akers (Baylor University), Brian D. Greer (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)

Recent research on the interview informed synthesized contingency analysis (IISCA) has extolled its benefits relative to traditional functional analysis (FA; e.g., efficiency; Slaton, Hanley, & Raftery, 2017) while other research has focused on its shortcomings (e.g., false-positive outcomes; Fisher, Greer, Romani, Zangrillo, & Owen, 2016). One limitation of prior comparisons is investigators could not ascertain with surety the true function(s) of the participants’ problem behavior for use as the criterion variable. We conducted a translational study to circumvent this limitation by training a specific function for a surrogate destructive behavior prior to conducting an FA and synthesized contingency analysis (SCA) of this response. The FA correctly identified the function of the target response in all six cases and produced no iatrogenic effects. The SCA produced differentiated results in all cases, and produced iatrogenic effects in three of six cases. We discuss these finding in terms the mechanisms that may promote iatrogenic effects.




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