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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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #535
Behavioral Economics Approaches to Improve Care for Seriously and Critically Ill Patients
Monday, May 30, 2022
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Ballroom Level 3; Ballroom East/West
Area: CBM; Domain: Theory
Chair: Michele R. Traub (St. Cloud State University)
CE Instructor: Scott Halpern, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: SCOTT HALPERN (University of Pennsylvania)

Six decades of research on human decision making has revealed how sensitive our choices are to the ways in which options are framed. A key insight from this line of scholarship, which is typically referred to as behavioral economics, is that the influence of nudges – or intentional framings of options so as to make certain choices more likely – is greatest when people lack deep-seated or well-ordered preferences among the options. Most of us know, for example, whether we prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream, or at least the situations in which we prefer one or the other, and so are unlikely to be nudged to choose differently. But unlike ice cream selections, seriously patients’ (and their family members’) choices about end-of-life care are made infrequently, and typically without receiving feedback about how choosing one way versus another makes us feel. For these reasons and perhaps others, research over the past decade has shown that these high-stakes, seemingly preference-sensitive decisions are in fact quite strongly influenced by the ways in which options are framed. This talk will begin by differentiating among behavior change strategies that differ in their likely effectiveness and threats to autonomous choice, and will then explore how behavioral economic concepts are being used by the speaker and others in efforts to improve the quality of serious illness care in the U.S. Examples from ongoing and recently completed randomized trials will be presented, and the ethics of consciously “nudging” certain end-of-life decisions will be considered.

Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience: Any clinicians who may engage with seriously ill patients
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) differentiate among behavior change strategies that differ in their likely effectiveness and threats to autonomous choice; (2) describe how behavioral economic concepts are being employed in efforts to improve serious illness care; (3) evaluate the ethics of consciously “nudging” certain end-of-life decisions.
SCOTT HALPERN (University of Pennsylvania)
Scott D. Halpern, MD, Ph.D. is the John M. Eisenberg Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and a practicing intensive care doctor. He is the founding Director of the Palliative and Advanced Illness Research (PAIR) Center, which generates evidence to advance policies and practices that improve the lives of all people affected by serious illness. His awards include the American Federation for Medical Research’s Outstanding Investigator Award for the best scientist in any field under the age of 45, the Association of Clinical and Translational Science’s Distinguished Investigator Award, and the Arthur K. Asbury Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and serves on the Editorial Boards of the Annals of Internal Medicine and the American Journal of Bioethics.



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