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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #132
CE Offered: BACB
Investigating Self-Controlled Choice in Situations Involving Desirable and Undesirable Outcomes
Saturday, May 23, 2020
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Level M2, Marquis Ballroom 1/2
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Forrest Toegel (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
CE Instructor: Forrest Toegel, Ph.D.

Research investigating self-control often focuses on choice between two desirable outcomes – those in which an individual can produce either a small outcome delayed by short amount of time or a large outcome delayed by a long time; however, individuals encounter another kind of choice situation in daily life – one in which a choice can produce both desirable and undesirable outcomes. The present symposium arranges three recent studies that attempt to further our understanding of self-controlled choice in situations involving both desirable and undesirable outcomes. The goal of this symposium is to explore recent approaches to investigate this type of choice situation and to encourage future research on this underrepresented area.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Choice, Conflict, Dual-Valence Consequence, Self-Control

Effects of Delay and Signals on Choice Between Immediate Food With Delayed Shock and Delayed Food Alone

FORREST TOEGEL (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Michael Perone (West Virginia University)

Some problematic human behavior occurs when a single choice produces reinforcing and aversive consequences. The present experiments explored this type of choice situation using rats to investigate how the value of an immediate food reinforcer that is followed by a shock changes as a function of the delay to the shock. The rats chose between two food pellets delivered immediately and followed by delayed shock, and two food pellets delivered alone after a delay. Within each condition, the delay to food was adjusted based on each rat’s previous choices until both consequences were chosen equally often and the delay to food was stable. At this “indifference point,” the delayed food was equal in value to the immediate food followed by shock. Depending on the experiment, either the delay to shock or whether the delayed shock was signaled was manipulated across conditions. Generally, the shock devalued the immediate food to the greatest extent when the delay to shock was short. As the delay to shock was raised, these effects weakened in a pattern resembling a hyperbola. The signaling procedure did not affect the value of the immediate food systematically. The findings parallel research on temporal discounting of positive reinforcers.


A Procedure for Studying the Temporal Discounting of Aversive Consequences

Fernanda Gonzalez-Barriga (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), William Rodriguez (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), VLADIMIR ORDUNA (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

In contrast to the large amount of studies of temporal discounting of positive consequences, research on temporal discounting of aversive consequences is scarce. For this reason, we developed a procedure for studying in rats the temporal discounting of aversive consequences, whose rationale and main results are presented next. In the first phase, rats chose between one-pellet and four-pellet alternatives; when subjects developed preference for the larger-amount alternative, an electric shock was added to it, resulting in a loss of preference. In the second phase, the delay to shock was progressively increased within each session (ascending delays: 0, 5, 10, 20, 40 s), which resulted in a recovery of preference for the larger-amount-plus-shock alternative as delay was increased. In a third phase, with the aim of analyzing whether the previous result was influenced by short-term habituation to the shock rather than to temporal discounting, the order of delays was reverted so that they were presented in descending order. As in the previous phase, rats showed a higher preference for the larger-amount-plus-shock alternative when delay was larger, indicating that habituation did not play a major role in this procedure. Currently, we are using this procedure to: a) analyze the impact of the intensity of the shock on the discount function, and b) evaluate the temporal discounting of aversive consequences in spontaneously hypertensive rats -a purported animal model of ADHD-, in order to complement the extensive research on temporal discounting of positive reinforcers that has been performed with this strain.

Discounting Combinations of Gains and Losses
YU-HUA YEH (Washington University in St. Louis), Sara J. Estle (University of North Carolina at Greensboro), Yaoyun Cui (Washington University in St. Louis), Joel Myerson (Washington University in St. Louis), Leonard Green (Washington University in St. Louis)
Abstract: Discounting research has focused mostly on relatively simple situations such as choices between immediate, smaller gains and delayed, larger gains. Everyday choice situations, however, are more complex, often involving combinations of gains and losses. We examined discounting by humans in situations that combined an immediate loss followed by a delayed gain that resulted in either a net gain (Experiment 1) or a net loss (Experiment 2) and compared it with discounting when there was only a delayed gain. We also examined discounting in situations involving an immediate gain followed by a delayed loss that resulted in either a net gain (Experiment 3) or a net loss (Experiment 4) and compared it with discounting when there was only a delayed loss. A hyperboloid discounting function that describes the discounting of delayed gains and of delayed losses in simple choice situations tended to describe the discounting of combinations of gains and losses (see Figure), although participants discounted gain-loss combinations less steeply than delayed gains not preceded by an immediate loss or delayed losses not preceded by an immediate gain. These findings support the view that complex choices like those often encountered in everyday life can be evaluated within the discounting framework.



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