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 #49
CE Offered: BACB
Translational Research on Conditional Discriminations
Saturday, May 25, 2019
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom D
Area: AUT/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Weizhi Wu (Florida Institute of Technology; The Scott Center for Autism Treatment)
Discussant: Tiffany Kodak (Marquette University)
CE Instructor: Tiffany Kodak, Ph.D.

Being able to do the right thing in the right context is an essential skill for every species. A fundamental learning process related to behaving appropriately is the capacity to engage in conditional discriminations. As with all forms of learning, many factors can influence conditional-discrimination performance. In this symposium, we will consider several variables influencing conditional-discrimination performance in pigeons and humans across both simple and conditional discriminations. The first presentation examined discrimination of the presence versus absence of prior reinforcement on the development of variable-response sequences in pigeons. The second presentation examined the effects of static versus dynamic samples during simple and conditional discriminations with humans. The third presentation examined the effects of comparison-set size on performance during auditory-visual conditional discriminations in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The final presentation examined the use of quantitative analyses to characterize error patterns during conditional discriminations in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Conditional discrimination, Reinforcement, Stimulus control, Translational research
Target Audience:

Practitioners, teachers, applied researchers, translational researchers, and basic researchers

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to describe how conditional discriminations: (1) are used to teach skills; (2) answer questions about behavioral processes; and (3) results in different types of errors
Past Behavior as a Stimulus: Differential Control of Operant Variability in Pigeons
(Basic Research)
RYAN J BECKER (Utah State University), Diana Perez (Utah State University), Haylee Downey (Utah State University), Amy Odum (Utah State University)
Abstract: The stochastic generation hypothesis proposes that animals trained to behave variably eventually emit random, unpredictable responses (Neuringer, 2004). The present molecular analysis challenges this hypothesis and suggests that animals’ responses under schedules of variability may come under conditional control of their recent behavior. We trained 10 pigeons to emit four pecks distributed across two keys (“left” and “right”) in a multiple lag 1 lag 8 schedule of reinforcement. The lag 1 component reinforced a four-peck sequence if it differed from the previous sequence, whereas the lag 8 component only reinforced a four-peck sequence if it differed from the previous eight sequences. Preliminary data analysis suggests that—for those pigeons that discriminate between the two variability components—the probability of initiating a four-peck sequence with a “left” peck is increased when the previous terminal peck was “left” and reinforced, but not when the previous terminal “left” peck was not reinforced. Non-reinforced terminal pecks drive the probability of initiating a sequence with that same peck towards .5. Thus, these results suggest that pigeons’ moment-by-moment responses in an operant variability paradigm are a function of not only scheduled variability contingencies, but also their recently (non)reinforced behavior.
Comparing the Use of Statically and Dynamically Positioned Stimuli in the Training of Simple and Conditional Discriminations
(Applied Research)
Samuel L. Morris (University of Florida), ELIANA M. PIZARRO (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
Abstract: Previous research has manipulated parameters of reinforcement, increased response effort, required an observing response, and altered array presentation as methods to alleviate biased responding. We hypothesized that utilizing dynamic stimuli (i.e., stimuli that moved continuously within each trial) may require attending and increase response effort, and therefore may reduce the occurrence and persistence of biased responding. In the current study we compared accuracy, bias, and rate of acquisition across repeated discriminations presented in static or dynamic formats. Seven subjects who were reported or observed to display position biases participated. The comparison was conducted with simple discriminations with all seven subjects. The dynamic format produced favorable outcomes for three subjects, made no difference for three subjects, and produced less favorable outcomes for one subject. Three subjects were included in a subsequent comparison with conditional discriminations. The dynamic format produced favorable outcomes for one subject, and there was no clear effect for two subjects.

An Evaluation of Stimulus Set Size During Conditional Discrimination for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
Laura L. Grow (Garden Academy), BASAK TOPCUOGLU (Florida Institute of Technology), Sandhya Rajagopal (Florida Institute of Technology), Rebecca Fire (Florida Institute of Technology), Corina Jimenez-Gomez (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Florida Institute of Technology), Ivy M Chong (May Institute), Kacie M McGarry (Florida Institute of Technology)

When teaching auditory-visual conditional discriminations, some of the available teaching strategies (e.g., blocked-trials procedures, conditional-only method) vary by number of comparison stimuli present during training. Sidman (1987) argued that instructors should include more than two comparison stimuli during training to reduce the likelihood of false positive or false negative results. However, researchers have yet to evaluate the effects of comparison size on acquisition of auditory-visual conditional discriminations. This study compared the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching using sets of two, three, and four stimulus pairs, using an adapted alternating treatments design. Three children aged 3- and 6-years old, diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, participated in the study. Experimenters taught 12 relations in each experimental condition. For one participant, the 3-array presentation was most efficient, and for the other participant, the 2-array presentation was most efficient. The results will be discussed in terms of clinical implications and directions for future research.

Quantitative Analysis of Discriminability and Bias During Conditional Discriminations
(Applied Research)
TIARA RAHADIAN PUTRI (Florida Institute of Technology; The Scott Center for Autism Treatment), Courtney Hannula (Florida Institute of Technology; The Scott Center for Autism Treatment), Weizhi Wu (Florida Institute of Technology; The Scott Center for Autism Treatment), Adam Thornton Brewer (Florida Institute of Technology), Blake A. Hutsell (Virginia Commonwealth University), Corina Jimenez-Gomez (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Florida Institute of Technology), Christopher A. Podlesnik (Florida Institute of Technology)
Abstract: Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) make errors during discrimination training regardless of antecedent or consequent procedures implemented to decrease errors. These interventions are not guided by the source of errors. Two equations from Davison and Tustin’s (1978) framework can quantify errors due to bias (log b) and discriminability (log d). This framework categorized errors emitted by children diagnosed with ASD during a matching-to-sample task. The task was displayed on a touchscreen device in which touching a sample stimulus at the beginning of each trial resulted in the appearance of two comparison stimuli. Researchers delivered reinforcement for touching the matching comparison stimulus. More similar sample stimuli were introduced during Phase 2 while keeping the comparison stimuli the same which affected sample discriminability only with little effect on biases for two of three participants. This framework accurately categorized errors emitted by children with ASD when levels of difficulty between the sample stimuli were manipulated. Future research might be able to use these equations to better categorize errors children with ASD exhibit during conditional discriminations. Future research might also be able to improve teaching procedures by targeting interventions to mitigate or eliminate specific errors due to biases or reduced discriminability.



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