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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #277A
Advances in Behavioral Economics of Food Choice Among Humans and Non-Humans
Saturday, May 29, 2021
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Area: EAB/CBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Yaeeun Lee (Idaho State University)
Discussant: Suzanne H. Mitchell (Oregon Health & Science University)

Behavioral economics is a field that integrates economic principles with behavioral concepts and provides greater understanding of complex phenomenon like obesity and eating disorders. Two procedures used in behavioral economics, delay discounting and demand, have been used to characterize how valued an outcome is in terms of its availability with particular patterns being conceptualized as markers of problematic behavior. This symposium will present new data on the demand and delay discounting of food choices across rats and human subjects. The speakers will present on effects of diet in influencing delay discounting in both rats and humans, how food cue exposure can influence demand and discounting of food outcomes, limitations of current behavioral economic tasks in measure food choice, and effects of a mindful eating training on food choice among a food insecure population. These results highlight the role of behavioral economics in our understanding of eating behavior and the use of mindful eating as a potential form of intervention for aberrant eating patterns.


Parallel Procedures of Impulsive Choice: Effects of a High-Fat Diet in Humans and Rats

TRAVIS RAY SMITH (Kansas State University), Catherine Steele (Kansas State University), MacKenzie Gwinner (Kansas State University), Kimberly Kirkpatrick (Kansas State University)

The relationship between a high-fat diet and performance in an impulsive choice procedure was assessed in rats and humans. The impulsive choice procedure presented a smaller-sooner (SS, impulsive) option and a larger-later (LL, self-controlled) option that varied the reinforcer amount-delay values. Preference for the LL option represented the optimal strategy to maximize reinforcer amount. Rats and humans were exposed to parallel procedures where they experienced the delay (sec) and amount (pellets for rats, M&M candies for humans) outcomes of their choices. Diet was assessed in rats experimentally by maintaining rats on a high-fat diet or a low-fat control diet. Diet was assessed in humans through self-reports of dietary choices (ASA24 dietary assessment) coupled with measuring percent body fat (PBF). Rats that were experimentally exposed to diets high in saturated fats were more likely to make impulsive choices. Humans with high PBF that reported eating high-fat foods were more sensitive to changes in delay to reinforcement. These data highlight differences and broad similarities in diet and impulsive choice between humans and rodents. Research relating rats and humans is important to strengthen the validity of animal models. Animal models permit experimental control over important variables that allow for causal inference.

Effects of Food Paired Cues on Conditioned Salivation and Food Reinforcer Efficacy
Ethan Hemmelman (Idaho State University ), Bailey Perschon (Idaho State University), Erin B. Rasmussen (Idaho State University), Morgan Musquez (Idaho State University), SIERRA BACA-ZEFF (Idaho State University)
Abstract: Food cues, stimuli that have been paired with food as unconditioned stimuli, can come to elicit conditioned physiological responses, such as salivation. The purpose of the present study was to determine the extent to which food cues can condition salivation, as measured through swallowing responses, and the extent to which conditioned food cues affect the efficacy of food as a reinforcer, as measured through behavioral economic procedures of delay discounting and demand. Forty-four participants underwent acquisition and extinction of classically conditioned salivation responses. Results to date demonstrate that all participants acquired a conditioned salivation response to the food cues. Food cues did not alter the efficacy of food as a reinforcer by way to delay discounting or demand elasticity. These results demonstrate that the presentation of visual paired food cues can elicit conditioned physiological responses, but may not serve as establishing operations for food reinforcer efficacy.

Assessing Demand, Discounting, and Reinforcing Efficacy of Food

RACHEL NICOLE SOBOL FOSTER (University of Kansas, Applied Behavioral Economics Laboratory), Derek D. Reed (University of Kansas)

Recent research suggests the behavioral economics of food consumption parallels behavioral patterns of other addictive commodities. Understanding these behavioral economic principles underlying the relative reinforcing efficacy of food – namely, delay discounting and operant demand – may improve clinical applications for treating obesity or eating disorders. Toward this end, we recruited participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk (N = 172) to complete a purchase task for a highly preferred sandwich, along with two separate purchase tasks for their preferred high-calorie and low-calorie snacks. Additionally, they completed the 27-item Monetary Choice Questionnaire and the Food Choice Questionnaire, assessing delay discounting for money and food, respectively, as well as clinical scales related to food reward sensitivity. Results indicate demand for high-calorie and low-calorie snacks does not significantly differ (p < 0.01). Additionally, delay discounting and demand for food were neither significantly correlated to BMI nor clinical scale outcomes, despite strong relations between clinical scale outcomes and BMI (p < 0.01), and significant relations between both discounting tasks (p < 0.01). This research suggests that perhaps there are limitations in which food demand is currently assessed within the field of BE; this project informs future implications for research that assesses food within a reinforcement pathology framework.


Effects of Mindful Eating Training on Delay and Probability Discounting Among Food Insecure Women

LUIS RODRIGUEZ (Idaho State University), Erin B. Rasmussen (Idaho State University), Shelby Pemberton (Idaho State University), Maria Wong (Idaho State University), Dante Kyne-Rucker (Idaho State University), Katie S. Martin (Food Share)

Food insecurity, or inconsistent access to foods that meet nutritional needs, has been linked to both steeper delay discounting (DD) for money and food outcomes. Mindful Eating Training (MET) teaches individuals to tact public and private stimuli associated with the experiences of eating and has been shown to reduce discounting among adolescents and adults. The purpose of the present study was to examine effects of MET on DD and probability discounting (PD) among food-insecure women. One-hundred and twenty women with food insecure status were recruited from a community sample and completed baseline discounting tasks for food and money. Then, they were randomly assigned to MET, DVD, or control conditions followed by completion of post- and 1-week follow-up food and money DD and PD tasks. Results revealed that mindful eating significantly affected food PD with higher PD values observed at follow-up compared to baseline. Mindful eating, however, did not affect food and money DD and money PD across baseline, post-test, and follow-up. These results suggest that mindful eating may affect risk aversion instead of delay discounting in food insecure women.




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