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 #210
Key Behavior-Analytic Applications During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Experimental Analysis of Online Academic Performance, Mask Wearing, and Face Touching
Sunday, May 30, 2021
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Area: CSS/EDC; Domain: Translational
Chair: Javier Virues Ortega (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain) & The University of Auckland (New Zealand))
CE Instructor: Javier Virues Ortega, Ph.D.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of over 1.5 million people across the world and have changed the lifestyle of humanity, possibly, for years to come. In this context, specific behaviors that had received minimal or no attention in the past have been moved up the social validity scale overnight. In this symposium we will evaluate various interventions addressing some key COVID-related behaviors. Online teaching and internet use has exploded during the pandemic. The first study looks at the potential role of social media in facilitating academic performance during online university-level courses. There are essentially no experimental analyses in the literature evaluating whether social media engagement (in the context of closed Facebook learning groups) could be an important channel for multi-component behavioral interventions. The second study presents a telehealth mask-wearing training program for children with autism presenting mask-induced problem behavior. The study evaluates a caregiver-delivered intervention among an international sample of participants from Belgium, India, Mexico, and Costa Rica. In the final study we turn to face touching. Face touching is thought to account for tens or hundreds of thousands of Sars-CoV-2 infections across the world due to physical contact with contaminated surfaces. It has been suggested that face touching, a high frequency behavior, may limit the protective role of hand washing, which occurs inevitably at lower rates. In this third presentation we evaluate the suppressive effect of contingent vibrotactile stimulation on face touching in a group of typical adults as they go about their daily lives. In addition to the treatment evaluation side of the study, it also provided an opportunity to conduct a thorough quantitative and descriptive analysis of face touching in ecologically relevant settings. Overall, these studies give a perspective of the diversity of behavioral applications that can be brought to bear in order to mitigate the effects of the current pandemic.

Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): COVID, Face touching, Mask wearing, Social media
Target Audience:

Students, practitioners and applied researchers.

Learning Objectives: 1. Learn the mechanisms by which social media closed groups can be used to deliver reinforcement-based interventions and understand their likely effect on academic engagement and performance. 2. Understand the proposed treatment model for mask wearing acquisition among clients with developmental disability in cross-cultural settings. 3. Understand the behavioral processes underlying face toaching and its importance as a health risk behavior.
An Experimental Evaluation of a Facebook Group’s Contribution to Academic Engagement and Performance among Postgraduate Students
(Applied Research)
AIDA TARIFA RODRIGUEZ (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid & ABA España), Javier Virues Ortega (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain) & The University of Auckland (New Zealand))
Abstract: This study examines the effectiveness of a multi-component package designed to increase engagement between faculty and professional specialization students in an online course. We hypothesized that enhancing online interaction can be an active element of teaching effectiveness and can have a measurable impact on performance. The intervention was delivered through a closed Facebook group. The multi-component package was comprised of peer reinforcement and cooperative learning, student self-monitoring, self-evaluation, goal setting, and teacher antecedent- and consequent-based strategies. A total of 46 students participated in a concurrent multiple baseline design across groups. The intervention was staggered across the groups over a period of eight weeks. The results indicated that the intervention was effective in increasing social media engagement in the learning group and academic performance. A post hoc multi-level analysis suggested that social media interaction responses (observing and intraverbal responses) mediated the effect of the intervention on academic performance. We will discuss the implications of our findings in the context of the widespread use of online teaching during the current pandemic.

Telehealth Mask-Wearing Training for Children With Autism and Mask-Induced Problem Behavior During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(Service Delivery)
Maithri Sivaraman (Ghent University, Belgium), AGUSTIN PEREZ-BUSTAMANTE PEREIRA (Hospital Ramon y Cajal, Madrid, Spain), Javier Virues Ortega (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid & The University of Auckland), Herbert Roeyers (Ghent University, Belgium)

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus causing COVID-19 and is spread through close person-to-person contact. The use of face masks has been described as an important strategy in the combat to contain and slow down its transmission while a vaccine is not made widely available. We evaluated the effects of telehealth training for caregivers to teach mask wearing to children with ASD. Six participants with a history of challenging behavior associated with mask wearing were recruited from different parts of the world, and trained using a combination of graduated exposure, shaping and contingent reinforcement. By the end of the intervention all participants wore a face mask for a target period of 10 min without exhibiting challenging behavior, and generalized the skill to a novel mask and a community setting. The findings support previous tolerance training treatment evaluations in children with developmental disability exhibiting resistance to healthcare routines. Clinical recommendations and areas for future research are discussed.


Suppressive Effect of Contingent Vibrotactile Stimulation on Face Touching During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Experimental Treatment Evaluation

(Applied Research)
JAVIER VIRUES ORTEGA (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid & The University of Auckland), Maithri Sivaraman (Ghent University), Agustin Perez-Bustamante Pereira (Hospital Ramon y Cajal, Madrid, Spain), Aida Tarifa Rodriguez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid & ABA España), Carolina Trujilo-Sánchez (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain), Rebeca Pardo-Cebrian (ABA España, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid), Peter A. Krause (University of California Santa Cruz), Neil Timothy Martin (Behavior Analyst Certification Board)

Facial contact behavior is a high frequency, high duration behavior that contributes to the transmission of communicable diseases by interaction with contaminated surfaces. Studies indicate that the Sars-CoV-2 virus remains viable for hours on surfaces such as paper, plastic, or metals. Hand-face contact has a long history among mammals and primates and is likely maintained by sensory consequences. It is estimated that thousands of infections may be mediated by hand contact with contaminated surfaces with pathogens being subsequently transferred to mucous membranes by hand contact with the mouth, nose, or eyes. We used contingent vibrotactile stimulation as an intervention to reduce hand-face contacts in ecological settings. Ten consecutively recruited adults wore one or two bracelets that delivered vibrotactile stimuli following face touching. Stimuli were delivered through Bluetooth-connected devices that were calibrated for each participant. We also evaluated the social validity of the intervention and how various environmental events were related to the level of face touching. In addition, the study provides an opportunity to discuss the quantitative characteristics of face touching. The results indicated that the face touching can be reduced considerably with this simple intervention.




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