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 #216
CE Offered: BACB
Comparative Analyses on Preference for and Efficacy of Reinforcement Arrangements
Sunday, May 26, 2019
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom D
Area: AUT/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Andrew C Bonner (University of Florida )
Discussant: John C. Borrero (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
CE Instructor: John C. Borrero, Ph.D.
Abstract: Much recent translational research has been devoted to examining variables that determine preferences for behavioral interventions, often in relation to differential effects. The studies in this symposium explore further, largely understudied, determinants of choice and efficacy in multiple contexts bound together by their relevance for common behavioral interventions. One study examined the effects of reinforcer quality on preference for distributed vs. accumulated reinforcement arrangements. A second evaluated whether the number of reinforcer options in a token system influences participants’ preference to choose or relinquish choice (i.e., choice overload). A third takes a behavioral economic approach to promoting preferences for physical activity over sedentary activities by manipulating the number of potential substitutes and the unit price for sedentary reinforcers. The final study takes a translational approach to comparing the relative efficacy of response commission and omission contingencies in supporting analog problem and alternative responses during reinforcement schedule thinning. Collectively, these studies advance our capacity for devising interventions that are both effective and valued by their recipients.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience: Intermediate

The Impact of Reinforcer Quality on Preference for Immediate and Delayed Reinforcement in Children With Autism

(Applied Research)
ANNA BUDD (Queens College, CUNY), Colleen Kocher (CUNY Queens College), Monica Howard (The ELIJA School), Daniel Mark Fienup (Columbia University)

Self-control can be conceptualized as preference for a larger delayed reinforcer over a smaller immediate reinforcer. Researchers have examined how to alter an individual’s preference between these types of reinforcers. In this study, the researcher examined the impact of reinforcer quality on preference for immediate or delayed reinforcers. Three 8- to 10-year-old students with Autism Spectrum Disorder participated. Researchers defined reinforcer quality as the reinforcer being available for its preferred duration. A participant chose between two response-reinforcer arrangements: continuous or discontinuous. The continuous arrangement entailed 5 m of access to a delayed reinforcer. The discontinuous arrangement entailed 30 s of access to a more immediate reinforcer. Only one arrangement entailed the preferred duration of reinforcer access. All three participants showed a consistent preference for one type of arrangement, regardless of the manipulation of reinforcer quality. Future research may re-examine the impact of reinforcer quality.


Choice Overload in Token Economies: Does Array Size Influence Preference for Choosing Versus Not Choosing?

(Applied Research)
NATHALIE FERNANDEZ (University of Florida), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida), Elizabeth Schieber (University of Florida)

Token economies are commonly implemented in educational settings with individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. Tokens stores are used to display available backup reinforcers, but the effects of array size on choice are unknown in this population. Choice overload is a phenomenon in typically developing populations in which an abundance of options leads to suboptimal choices. Recent research on the effects of array size on preference and toy engagement suggests that larger arrays may shift both preference and item engagement in typically developing children (Miller, Kaplan, Reed, and White, 2016), which may be consistent with choice overload effects. However, this preparation did not examine preference between array sizes and included duplicate items in the large array, which is not likely to occur in the natural environment. In the present study, we assessed preferences for small arrays, large arrays, and arrays in which the therapist selected the backup item (no choice) in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. We then assessed preference for array size across presentation modalities and varying levels of response effort. The results to date suggest that (a) larger array sizes were preferred to small arrays or no choice conditions, and (b) presentation modality does not affect preference for array size.


Shifting the Preferences of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder From Sedentary Towards Physical Activities

(Applied Research)
KISSEL JOSEPH GOLDMAN (University of Florida), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida)

The majority of youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do not engage in recommended levels of daily physical activity (PA). The motivation to select or engage in PA may contribute to low levels of PA in this population but should be considered in relation to the concurrent motivations to engage in sedentary activities. Researchers observed increased selection of PA in typically developing adults when more PA options were made available and increased selection of appropriate activities as the effort required to access less-appropriate activities increases. The number of options and amount of effort required appear to influence motivation to select sedentary activities, but these effects have not been evaluated in the context of PA in children with ASD. Contrived reinforcement has been shown to increase PA engagement but may also influence the selection of physical over sedentary activities. We manipulated the number of PA options, effort required to access sedentary activities, and/or reinforcement contingency for engaging in PA on PA selection and engagement in 4 children with ASD. Increased PA options and effort to access sedentary activities increased PA selection for two of four participants. Delivering tokens contingent on PA increased selection and engagement for the remaining two participants.


A Comparison of Response Requirements During Contingency-Based Progressive Delay Schedule Thinning

(Basic Research)
JULIA IANNACCONE (City University of New York Graduate Center; Queens College), Joshua Jessel (Queens College)

Schedule thinning is an essential step in treating problem behavior, yet little research has been conducted to determine the method associated with sustained treatment effects throughout thinning. A frequently used method for thinning reinforcement involves providing the reinforcer following a programmed response requirement and progressively increasing that requirement (i.e., contingency-based progressive delay [CBPD]). This response requirement during CBPD could be dependent on (1) contextually appropriate behavior (e.g., math completion) or (2) the absence of problem behavior. We designed a computer program for college students to determine the effects of these two response requirements of CBPD on three behaviors: previously reinforced behavior (analogue problem behavior), currently reinforced alternative behavior (analogue functional communication response), and contextually appropriate behavior during the delay. Low rates of responding to the previously reinforced response (problem behavior) were sustained regardless of thinning method. For most participants, undifferentiated high rates of alternative behavior and contextually appropriate behavior were observed. Higher rates of contextually appropriate behavior were observed when the response requirement for math completion was in place during reinforcement thinning. These results support the use of a response requirement for behaviors that are expected of the individual when reinforcement is not immediately forthcoming.




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