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 #434
CE Offered: BACB
Applying Behavioral Economics to Issues of Everyday Importance
Monday, May 27, 2019
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Swissôtel, Event Center Second Floor, Vevey 3/4
Area: CBM; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Rachel Nicole Sobol Foster (University of Kansas, Applied Behavioral Economics Laboratory)
Discussant: Brent Kaplan (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute)
CE Instructor: Shawn Patrick Gilroy, Ph.D.

Behavioral economists have made significant advancements in research that have not only greatly impacted the field of behavior analysis, but have also extended to other disciplines. Of note, work in this field has been used to inform public tax policies on commodities with addictive properties, assess the effects of differential price framings and verbal behavior on consumer choice and decision making, and evaluate impulsivity in the context of delay of gratification. This symposium presents a wide range of topics, including studying the effects of delay discounting to inform tornado warnings, examining a reinforcement pathology approach to risky sexual decisions, quantifying demand for food and sugar-sweetened beverages, and examining delay discounting in the context of parents’ choice of treatment for children. Thus, each presentation delivers a unique platform to discuss the multifaceted ways in which behavioral economic research is applied, providing a symposium for which behavior analysts in all specialties can relate.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behavioral economics, delay discounting, demand, reinforcer pathology
Target Audience:

Master's level behavior analysts

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1. Explain basic behavioral economic concepts. 2. Describe applications of delay discounting to issues of everyday importance. 3. Describe applications of operant demand to issues of everyday importance.
Temporal Discounting of Tornado Shelter-Seeking Intentions Amidst Standard and Impact-Based Weather Alerts: A Crowdsourced Experiment
BRETT GELINO (University of Kansas), Derek D. Reed (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Tornadoes are atmospheric events capable of massive devastation, involving physical destruction and human casualties. Following the 2011 Joplin, MO tornado that claimed the lives of nearly 160 people, the National Weather Service and National Institute of Standards and Technology concluded that better warning systems would have saved lives. This conclusion prompted the creation of “impact-based warnings” (IBW) which use explicit language that conveys damage threats and potential outcomes. The purpose of the current study was to examine the efficacy of IBW in evoking shelter-seeking in a simulated tornado event. Participants recruited through a crowdsourcing service were stratified into one of four simulated tornado warning conditions, varying with respect to alert content and level of detail (IBW). Participants rated their likelihood of immediate shelter-seeking given increasing delays to the potential tornado strike. Analyses indicated that participants receiving IBW maintained shelter-seeking most across increasing delays. To our knowledge, these data provide the first behavioral economic account of impact-based warning efficacy in tornadic events.

Obesity and Behavioral Economics: Examining Sex Differences in Relations Between Delay Discounting, Intensity, Persistence, and Body Mass Index Across Obesogenic Commodities

JONATHAN R. MILLER (University of Colorado School of Medicine / Children's Hospital Colorado), Brent Kaplan (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute), Warren K. Bickel (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Department of Psychology, Virginia Tech), Derek D. Reed (University of Kansas)

Extant research suggests behavioral economic assessments of delay discounting (DD) and demand curve analysis may be useful for understanding behavioral processes related to obesity in adults. To date, hypothetical purchase tasks (HPTs) have primarily assessed demand for food; however, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and use of screens that compete with physical activity (screen media use; SMU) can also contribute to an energy imbalance that promotes obesity, yet tasks for these commodities have not been developed. Novel HPTs assessing demand for SSB and SMU, along with an established HPT for fast food and a 5-trial delay discounting task, were administered to over 200 adults via Amazon Mechanical Turk. Relations between body mass index (BMI), delay discounting (ln(k)), demand intensity (log(Q0)), and demand elasticity (log(alpha)) were examined. Results suggest these behavioral economic parameters are differentially related to BMI for men and women, as BMI was related to DD for women only, and elasticity was more consistently related to BMI for men, whereas intensity was more consistently related to BMI for women across commodities. Results are discussed in terms of the Reinforcer Pathology Model and implications for assessment and treatment of obesity.

The Economics of Safe Sex: Examining Condom-Use Decisions Within a Reinforcement Pathologies Framework
JOSH HARSIN (University of Kansas), Brett Gelino (University of Kansas), Meredith Steele Berry (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Matthew W. Johnson (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Derek D. Reed (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Negative outcomes of unprotected sex (e.g., sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies) disproportionately affect young people (i.e., 15-24 y/o) in the United States. The aim of the current study was to assess sexual choice behavior of this population in light of the reinforcer pathology model. According to this framework, commodities with high abuse liability (e.g., drugs, alcohol) are characterized by (1) a preference for immediate availability (i.e., excessive discounting) and (2) a high valuation of the commodity (i.e., elevated demand) within clinical populations. The Sexual Discounting Task (SDT) examines the role of temporal delay in receipt of a condom on safe-sex behavior (i.e., using a condom). A novel condom purchase task (CoPT) was developed in order to study the effect of increasing monetary cost on demand for safe sex. Within the CoPT, participants (M age= 19.7 y/o) were presented with a hypothetical scenario wherein they were able to indicate whether they would become abstinent or engage in unprotected sex at breakpoint. Indices generated from the CoPT suggest one’s willingness to engage in unprotected sex may be a predictor of discounting rates on the SDT. Results are discussed in light of the reinforcer pathology model.

Parental Discounting of Delayed Outcomes in Treatment-Related Decision-Making

SHAWN PATRICK GILROY (Louisiana State University), Brent Kaplan (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute)

Behavioral treatments seldom have an immediate effect, and for many, the value of behavioral therapies may not be fully observed until after a substantial time commitment. As a result, parent perceptions of the value of behavioral treatments may be discounted because of these delays to treatment outcomes. This study compared the effects of delays on hypothetical outcomes of behavioral treatments in parents recruited from the Amazon Mechanical Turk framework. A novel adaptive hypothetical choice task was designed to evaluate parental preferences for smaller, immediate improvements in behavior over larger ones that include a delay. Results from this task were compared to a similar task measuring hypothetical choices for monetary outcomes. Multi-level modeling across outcomes and individuals revealed that outcomes of behavioral treatments were discounted at levels like those of monetary rewards. These findings suggest that parent perceptions and preferences in treatment-related decision-making warrant further consideration and research. Implications of the discounting of delayed treatment outcomes are discussed in the context of behavioral therapies and the time necessary for therapies to produce noticeable benefits to families.




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