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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #308
Hypothetical Purchase Tasks and Public Health Concerns: Sleep, Substance-Use, and the Impact of Alternative Reinforcers
Monday, May 29, 2023
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom C
Area: EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Kayla Rinna (Eastern Michigan University)
Discussant: Justin Charles Strickland (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)

Hypothetical purchase tasks capture ecologically informed preferences for a given reinforcer across a range of prices. They are convenient tools for deriving estimates of reinforcer demand. This symposium involves innovative applications of the hypothetical purchasing task methodology, specifically attending to alternative or competing reinforcers. Four studies assess (1) demand for alcohol when other options are available and characterizing these options as substitutes, complements, or independent; (2) demand for sleep considering nappers and non-nappers, across contextual manipulations and including chores that compete with sleep; (3) demand for alcohol under consideration of relevant, next-day priorities; and (4) alcohol and non-alcohol consumption patterns of student athletes and non-athletes. Understanding relative reinforcer value will aid the development of novel therapeutic targets to alleviate public health concerns.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Identifying Alternative Sources of Reinforcement for Alcohol Use: Preliminary Analysis of Novel Activity Purchase Tasks
(Basic Research)
SARAH CATHERINE WEINSZTOK (University of Kansas), Derek D. Reed (University of Kansas), Michael Amlung (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Behavioral economic frameworks suggest that hazardous alcohol use is a temporally extended pattern of behavior that occurs in the presence of other contextual variables. Thus, alcohol demand may be impacted by the availability of alternative or competing reinforcers. Purchase tasks are a useful way of assessing demand for alcohol in the face of alternative commodities because they permit researchers to functionally define these alternatives as having a substitutable, complementary, or independent relation to alcohol consumption. However, using purchase tasks to help identify alternative reinforcers to drug use remains a relatively nascent area. We therefore tested the feasibility of adapting purchase task methodology to alternative activity engagement in a series of novel activity purchase tasks. Participants recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (N=176) were administered an alcohol purchase task, a preference assessment of various daily activities, and purchase tasks of those activities. Results showed systematic impacts of price on demand, providing a preliminary demonstration that purchase task methodology can be successfully adapted to assess demand for preferred non-drug-related alternative activities. However, continued methodological refinement is warranted. We discuss the implications and future directions of this research in identifying candidate activities that may serve as substitutes for alcohol use.
How Much Would You Pay for Sleep? The Behavioral Economics of Undergraduates’ Sleep
(Basic Research)
KAYLA RINNA (Eastern Michigan University), Thomas J. Waltz (Eastern Michigan University), Claudia Drossel (Eastern Michigan University)
Abstract: Lack of sleep is a public health concern. The current study examined whether hypothetical purchasing tasks offer a method for quantifying the value of sleep among undergraduate students. Instructions were varied systematically to assess within-person effects, and a sleep questionnaire distinguished two groups of sleepers: nappers (n = 178) and non-nappers (n = 215). Validity checks and data-cleaning algorithms were used to ensure data integrity. About half of the participants (59.6%) produced valid data, resulting in systematic purchasing patterns, whether sleep could be purchased in isolation or in a context that made sure that chores would still be completed if the participant slept. Hypothetical purchasing tasks have the potential to enhance a behavioral economics approach to sleep and generate public health solutions.
Individually Tailoring Hypothetical Purchase Tasks in the Context of Next-Day Responsibilities
(Basic Research)
BRANDON PATRICK MILLER (University of Kansas), James Murphy (University of Memphis), James MacKillop (McMaster University), Michael Amlung (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Researchers can manipulate alcohol purchase tasks (APTs) to determine how demand for alcohol is influenced by context. One contextual factor that influences demand for alcohol is the presence of a next-day responsibility (e.g., Gilbert et al., 2014; Skidmore & Murphy, 2011); however, previous research has relied on college samples and examined a limited range of responsibilities. We replicated and extended previous research using a sample of community adults reporting last-year alcohol use from Amazon Mechanical Turk (n = 261; Mean age = 38.42; 79% White; 60% identified as men; 39% identified as women; 39% identified as non-binary) and eight hypothetical next-day responsibilities to determine if similar results would be found. To ensure that responsibilities were relevant to individual participants, they first rank-ordered all eight responsibilities. Participants then completed a standard no-responsibility APT, followed by two additional APTs in the context of their two highest ranked responsibilities. Intensity, breakpoint, Omax, and Pmax were significantly higher in the no responsibilities condition compared to both responsibility conditions (ps < .001); however, there was no significant difference in any demand index between the first and second ranked responsibility (p range .65-.91). We discuss these results and the advantages and disadvantages of individualizing commodity purchase tasks.
Alcohol Demand in College Students: The Roles of Athletic Involvement and Gender
(Basic Research)
REBECCA KURNELLAS (University of Kansas), Margaret P. Martinetti (The College of New Jersey), Elizabeth Taylor (Temple University), Rose Ward (University of Cincinnati)
Abstract: College athletes represent a high-risk group for alcohol use and associated consequences. We used the Alcohol Purchase Task to compare alcohol demand among men and women student-athletes and those not involved in college sports. In our first study (n = 196), student-athletes had significantly higher expenditures on alcohol (Omax) compared with non-athletes, and men had significantly higher demand intensity compared with women. Observed demand indices were also positively correlated with other measures of alcohol use/consequences, such as the AUDIT, DDQ, and B-YAACQ. In our second study (n = 1282 with systematic APT), we added the probability-based Cup-Price Purchase Task (CPPT; Morrell, Reed, & Martinetti, 2021) to investigate whether student-athletes would display higher demand for a “bottomless cup” compared with non-athletes. Finally, we used the APT-Choice (Martinetti et al., 2019) to examine whether men and women student athletes would differ in their sensitivity to alcohol price when a non-alcoholic alternative option was available within the purchase task vignette. The findings are discussed with respect to the use of hypothetical purchase tasks to both describe demand for alcohol and alcohol-related commodities among at-risk students and to assess the viability of low-cost alternatives as a harm-reduction measure.



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