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 #185
Making Effort Easier to Understand: Implications for Research and Application
Sunday, May 26, 2019
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Swissôtel, Concourse Level, Zurich BC
Area: EAB/PCH; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Jonathan W. Pinkston (Western New England University)
Abstract: Behavior analysis has come a long way in understanding the role of antecedents and consequences in the explanations of behavior. Less attention has been given to the response dimension and its role as both an independent and dependent variable. The present symposium explores recent research on quantitative dimensions of force and effort and their role in extinction-induced behavior, the origins of variability and novelty, and the conceptualization of effort as response cost. Data presentations incorporate human and animal basic research, but all talks touch on themes important for understanding and incorporating effortful dimensions in clinical application.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): behavioral economics, extinction-induced behavior, Response effort, variability
The Effects of Response Force Requirements on Acquisition and Extinction Response Patterns
ANDREW NUZZOLILLI (Western New England University), Lauren Palmateer (Western New England University), Kayla Wilson (Western New England University), Jonathan W. Pinkston (Western New England University)
Abstract: We investigated the effects of response force requirements on responding during extinction with human subjects. Recent research (Pinkston & Foss, 2018) suggests no difference in resistance to extinction when operants differ only in required effort, but that study did not examine local patterns of behavior in extinction. In the present study, college students in high and low force groups responded on a force transducer on a programmed FR 1 schedule of video access. After acquisition, extinction was implemented. Results suggest slight but not significant differences in response rate and force bursting between the two groups. Although this outcome is a partial replication of non-human animal research, it is tempered by the observation that high-force participants emitted many more responses during acquisition. This suggests that a discrepancy between programmed and experienced fixed-ratio schedule parameters for the high force group may have been responsible for the outcome. To clarify this muddle, additional data analysis and follow-up data sets with procedural variations were conducted. Alternate conceptual interpretations and general recommendations for the study of response force will be discussed.
Effects of Response Effort on Spontaneous and Reinforced Variability
LAUREN PALMATEER (Western New England University), Andrew Nuzzolilli (Western New England University), Jonathan W. Pinkston (Western New England University)
Abstract: Effects of response effort on variability were evaluated. Participants worked on a computer task in which the goal was to complete a sequence by moving a light from the top left to the bottom right corner of an on screen 5x5 matrix. Participants used specified 2-key combinations on a standard keyboard to complete the 8-key sequence. Distance between keys manipulated effort in each of three components using key combinations of A-S, A-G, or A-L. During baseline, all components arranged sequences to earn points according to an FR 1 schedule. In subsequent sessions a lag five schedule was implemented in the A-S or A-L conditions, and point delivery was arranged for variable responding. The final condition returned all components to an FR 1 schedule. Results indicate that spontaneous variability in behavior under FR 1 requirements was reduced by increasing key distance, suggesting effort may impact spontaneous behavior variability. The introduction of the lag schedule increased variability in those components where it operated, but key distance did not affect measures of entropy or variability, suggesting effort did not limit reinforced variability under these conditions.
A Behavioral Economics View of Response Effort
JONATHAN W. PINKSTON (Western New England University)
Abstract: Costs in operant schedules have been typically defined by specifying the number of response per unit commodity, but costs may entail other dimensions of behavior—namely effort. Response force/effort has been incorporated into the unit price formulation as a multiplication of force/effort by response count, but this may not be an adequate formulation of unit price. In the present studies, rats pressed an isometric force transducer. Food was earned in a closed economy. Ratio requirements for procuring food were adjusted in conjunction with increasing force requirements. Increasing the force requirement increased the elasticity of demand. Yoked conditions showed that increased elasticity was not due to responses that fell below the target force (subcriterion responses). When unit price was computed as a combination of ratio X force, the strict multiplication was inadequate to characterize the data. Instead, elasticity increased proportionately greater than increases in force, suggesting greater forces cost proportionately more than smaller forces—results in line with known psychophysical scaling of force. We argue that a better approximation to unit price should include psychophysical scaling of force/effort. Additionally, the data agrees with prior formulations that force/effort requirements are dimensions of cost, their meaning for behavior depending on elasticity of demand.



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