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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #259
CE Offered: BACB
Examining Bribery, Reinforcement, and Choice in Behavior-Analytic Teaching and Skill-Acquisition Programs
Sunday, May 29, 2022
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 205A
Area: EDC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Ryan C. Speelman (Pittsburg State University)
Discussant: Karl Fannar Gunnarsson (The National University Hospital of Iceland)
CE Instructor: Ryan C. Speelman, Ph.D.

In a teaching or skill-acquisition environments, educators and behavior analysts must utilize strategies to promote the best possible outcomes, such as individualizing procedures, providing choices, and reinforcement-based teaching. However, when teaching larger groups, such as a class of students, individualization and choice may be difficult to accomplish. Similarly, reinforcement procedures may be misconstrued as bribery by consumers. The present series of studies examines barriers to adoption of behavior-analytic teaching strategies and methods to overcome them. Study 1 used a multi-element design to compare college students’ attendance in optional, supplementary class sessions with pre-determined content versus sessions with content chosen and voted on by students using online polls. When students voted and chose content to discuss, attendance increased by 15%. In Study 2, 34 adults viewed recorded teaching trials featuring different antecedent components, learner behaviors, or consequences and rated whether each trial included bribery or reinforcement. Results revealed higher ratings of bribery were associated with several antecedent components (e.g., Premack rules) and several consequence components (e.g., edible reinforcement), which practitioners or teachers should more fully explain to consumers and fade out, if possible. Together, these studies provide support for practitioners and teachers to include behavior-analytic strategies and improve outcomes in teaching.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: 1) Attendees will be able to state differences between bribery and reinforcement 2) Attendees will be able to incorporate choice components into teaching trials to improve outcomes 3) Attendees will identify components of teaching trials which consumers identify as problematic and beneficial

Increasing Optional Class Session Attendance in an Online Course With a Brief, Low-Effort Choice Intervention

RYAN C. SPEELMAN (Pittsburg State University), Seth W. Whiting (Louisiana State University Shreveport)

Student-faculty interaction and attendance have been demonstrated to positively influence a student’s overall course satisfaction and grade outcomes. Still, students often fail to participate in supplementary classes, study sessions, or office hours offered by instructors. The present study evaluated a brief, low-effort choice intervention designed to improve attendance in weekly supplementary class sessions. In a graduate-level online course, the teacher’s assistant (TA) conducted weekly, optional class sessions and recorded student attendance. The instructors randomly alternated weekly sessions to include class-as-usual or a choice intervention consisting of presenting anonymous online polls with which students could vote for topics for the TA to specifically address in the next session. During class-as-usual the TA presented discussion topics, provided prompts to evoke relevant responses, and answered questions regarding weekly topics. Choice conditions consisted of the TA tailoring discussion around the most voted topics such as: overview of projects, examples of concepts, exam review and practice, tips on exam preparation, discussion of journal articles or book chapters, and discussion of a topic anticipated as difficult. Results showed an average attendance increase of 15% in the choice condition compared to class-as-usual, supporting the use of student choice to increase student engagement in supplementary learning experiences.

An Analysis of Teaching Trial Components Which Evoke the Terms "Bribery" and "Reinforcement"
SETH W. WHITING (Louisiana State University Shreveport), Ryan C. Speelman (Pittsburg State University)
Abstract: Consumers, teachers, and clients may misconstrue reinforcement and operations observed in reinforcement procedures as bribery regardless of any definitional differences between the concepts, hindering acceptance and adoption of behavior-analytic procedures. The purpose of the present study was to identify components of behavior-analytic teaching trials which individuals recognize as bribery. To date, 34 adults viewed videos featuring a model behavior analyst implementing discrete trial teaching procedures with a young learner and rated each on whether the procedure demonstrated reinforcement and whether the procedure demonstrated bribery using Likert-type scales. Thirty-six videos were created in pairs, such that one video portrayed a teaching trial and response according to standard procedures and a second video portrayed that same trial but with an aspect of the antecedent, learner behavior, or consequence manipulated. Results suggested that offering choices, initiating trials with a simple rule (e.g., “We’re working”), and intermittent schedules of reinforcement produced the highest ratings of reinforcement, whereas using Premack rules, providing edible reinforcers, and continuous schedules of reinforcement produced the highest ratings of bribery. When implementing procedures which consumers may identify as bribery, practitioners must increase attempts to educate and fade out undesirable components to increase acceptance and consumer satisfaction of behavior-analytic procedures.



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