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 #327
CE Offered: BACB
Building Reinforcing Interactions: Accelerated Learning Through Reinforcement System Training
Monday, May 29, 2023
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom F
Area: AAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Josef Harris (University of North Texas)
Discussant: Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)
CE Instructor: Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, Ph.D.

According to Sidman (2010), Skinner (1938) was able to produce fast learning when teaching his rats to press a lever because he started by teaching them how the reinforcement procedure was going to work. This is usually called magazine training in the laboratory. The learner must understand when reinforcement is available, where to go or what to do to access the reinforcer, how to consume the reinforcer, and how to go back to training after finishing the reinforcer. Skinner more specifically described these behaviors as a behavior chain, as reinforcement involves a series of actions on the part of the learner. Early behavior analysts who worked in both laboratory and applied settings knew that it was crucial to begin with magazine training. However, many modern behavior analysts do not understand the important skills that a learner learns during this step. Without this foundation, learners are not fully prepared for future learning. This symposium will show how starting with reinforcement system training leads to accelerated learning in applied settings.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): autism, chaining, clicker training, horses
Target Audience:

BCBAs, clinical directors, animal trainers

Learning Objectives: 1) Participants will be able to name the elements of the reinforcement system. 2) Participants will be able to describe why it is important to train the reinforcement system first. 3) Participants will be able to identify breaks and follows when analyzing a reinforcement system.

Introducing Horses to Clicker Training: Accelerated Learning Through Reinforcement System Training

(Applied Research)
MARY ELIZABETH HUNTER (Behavior Explorer), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

Clicker training and positive reinforcement training are growing in popularity among horse owners. However, there is a lack of systematic, step-by-step procedures for owners to follow when introducing a horse to clicker training. Some professional trainers advocate for “charging” the clicker; other trainers begin straightaway with teaching a new behavior, such as touching a target or turning the head away. The lack of precise instructions means that some horses perform unwanted, and potentially dangerous, behaviors during initial training sessions, including nipping, biting, pushing, and searching the person for food. These behaviors may be accidentally reinforced and may discourage owners from continuing with positive reinforcement training. This presentation will describe a step-by-step approach for introducing horses to positive reinforcement training. Horses learned how to consume the reinforcer, where the reinforcer would be delivered, and when the reinforcer would be delivered. Next, the horses learned three additional behaviors, including touching a target, backing up, and stay. Results showed that horses were able to learn the reinforcement system with few or no errors and that starting with reinforcement system training produced accelerated learning on other tasks.


Building Joyful Back-and-Forth Interactions and Accelerated Learning for Children With Autism Through Reinforcement System Training

(Applied Research)
CRYSTAL FERNANDEZ (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

Most therapy procedures for children with autism are based in positive reinforcement. Recommendations for the application of positive reinforcement have often been based on characteristics of the reinforcer, such as size, immediacy, level of deprivation, and the schedule used. However, there are other factors that are also important in the successful application of positive reinforcement, including aspects related to how the reinforcer is delivered. Related to this, Skinner (1938) discussed how reinforcement involves a chain of behaviors. In the context of autism therapy, reinforcement involves the interaction of two organisms, the therapist and child, and these interactions create an interlocking chain of behaviors. Yet, this chain of interactions is often not explicitly taught, resulting in unwanted behaviors and slower progress for the child. This presentation will describe a procedure and data collection system for evaluating reinforcement systems during therapy sessions. Results show that rebuilding faulty reinforcement systems leads to more teaching opportunities and accelerated learning.




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Modifed by Eddie Soh