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 #232
CE Offered: BACB
The Reciprocal Relationship Between Response and Reinforcer: Three Evaluations of the Effects of Conjugate Reinforcement on Response Force
Sunday, May 28, 2023
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom C
Area: EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: John T. Rapp (Auburn University)
CE Instructor: John T. Rapp, Ph.D.

Rapp (2008) described conjugate reinforcement schedules to be well utilized by developmental psychology researchers but largely ignored by behavior analysts. Subsequently, he called for behavior analysts to re-assess the potential uses and benefits of these schedules. Only recently, several evaluations of conjugate schedules have emerged in the literature, specifically as a method to manipulate response force. The first two presentations in this symposium will highlight the use of conjugate schedules to assess the preferences of adult human participants. Results of the preference assessments were compared to those of a verbal stimulus without replacement (VMSWO) assessment. The first presentation will demonstrate a method for assessing preference for visual stimuli (i.e., pictures), while the second describes the same for auditory stimuli (i.e., music). The third presentation will show an extension these studies by using auditory stimuli in a conjugate preparation as a consequent variable to control the movement of human participants on a treadmill. Taken together, these presentations describe a novel avenue of research that may have meaningful implications in a translational context.

Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): conjugate schedules, preference assessments, response force, variability
Target Audience:

Behavior analysts, professors, graduate-level practitioners, experimental psychologists, researchers, graduate students

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe conjugate schedules and their utility for manipulating response force; (2) describe a method for using conjugate reinforcement to assess stimulus preference; (3) describe trends in responding that are commonly observed when applying conjugate reinforcement and a subsequent extinction component.
Identifying Preferences Using a Conjugate Preparation
(Applied Research)
DANIEL JOHN SHERIDAN (Auburn University), John T. Rapp (Auburn University)
Abstract: Conjugate schedules of reinforcement are found in everyday contingencies of continuous response-reinforcer relationships, such as adjusting the blinds to allow the preferred level of sunlight in a room or swinging in a swing to obtain preferred levels of vestibular stimulation. Recent research has also shown conjugate arrangements may be a useful method to study stimulus preference. The purpose of the current investigation was to replicate and extend Davis et al. (2021). Specifically, researchers utilized a conjugate arrangement to examine how participants’ response force changed based on preference for visual stimuli. First, each participant’s preference for viewing five picture categories was assessed using a verbal multiple stimulus without replacement (VMSWO) preference assessment; this process identified high preference (HP) stimuli and low preference stimuli (LP) for most participants. Researchers exposed each participant to the five stimulus categories in a randomized order while using a force dynamometer to measure their response force to increase visual clarity of each stimulus. Results from this study will be depicted and described along with recommendations for future research.

Comparing Stimulus Preference and Response Force in a Conjugate Preparation: A Replication With Auditory Stimulation

(Basic Research)
JENNIFER L COOK (University of Manitoba), Rasha Baruni (University of South Florida ), Jonathan W. Pinkston (Western New England University), John T. Rapp (Auburn University), Raymond G. Miltenberger (University of South Florida), Shreeya Deshmukh (University of South Florida), Sharayah Tai (University of South Florida)

In this study, researchers used a similar conjugate preparation to evaluate how response force changed based on 17 participants’ preferences for auditory stimuli. Researchers used a verbal preference assessment to evaluate each participant’s preference for listening to five genres of music; this process identified high preference (HP) and low preference (LP) music for each participant. Thereafter, researchers exposed each participant to the five music genres in a randomized order while using a force dynamometer to measure their response force to increase auditory clarity of the music. Results indicate (a) about half of the participants’ HP music genres corresponded to the genre for which they exerted the highest mean force and (b) nearly all of the participants’ LP music genres corresponded to the genre for which they exerted the lowest mean force. These findings are consistent with those from Davis et al. (2021) and further support using conjugate preparations for measuring the relative value of some stimulus events.


A Running Start: Applications of Conjugate Schedules to Human Ambulation

(Basic Research)
JONATHAN W. PINKSTON (Western New England University), Jennifer L Cook (University of Manitoba), John T. Rapp (Auburn University), Rasha Baruni (University of South Florida ), Raymond G. Miltenberger (University of South Florida), Shreeya Deshmukh (University of South Florida), Sharayah Tai (University of South Florida)

The utility of programmed schedules of reinforcement lies in their ability to augment or create contingencies that do not occur naturally, and facilitate behavior change when natural contingencies are insufficient. Conjugate schedules arrange relationships between continuous response-stimulus units and may be more useful in those circumstances. We applied conjugate schedules to the study of human ambulation on a treadmill. For 17 participants, music was conditional on their speed falling within a predefined “band” criteria that defined upper and lower limits for music production. We used a changing criterion design using varying band levels and widths, with a final extinction component. As the band criteria changed, the participants’ speed initially adjusted then rapidly conformed to the new band criteria, while extinction induced variability. This first study shows walking or running can be regulated by conjugate schedules and may have useful applications in the domains of exercise and human performance training.




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