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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #65
CE Offered: BACB
Preference Assessment Procedures: Methodology, Presentation Mode, & Stimulus Selection
Saturday, May 23, 2015
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
214C (CC)
Area: DDA/DEV; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Casey Clay (Utah State University)
Discussant: Anibal Gutierrez Jr. Jr. (Florida International University)
CE Instructor: Casey Clay, M.S.

Preference assessment (PA) for stimuli is important in that it allows for likely selection of reinforcers leading to contingencies that increase desired behavior. Some stimuli do not easily lend themselves to PA. Furthermore, some assessment methods raise questions on the reliability of the method and validity of results acquired. Therefore, reliability of existing methods must be tested, as well as the investigation of novel methods, to assess valid preference of different forms of stimuli. Studies in this symposium assess preference in participants with and without disabilities demonstrating the importance of PA across populations. Studies establishing preference hierarchies for social stimuli and communication topography are included. Additionally, studies addressing reliability and validity of different methodologies are included. Studies measuring preference for different forms of stimuli identified preference hierarchies and demonstrated reinforcing efficacy of stimuli assessed by researchers. Results from studies on reliability of existing methods provide interesting conclusions and future directions. These current issues as well as importance of PA will be discussed.


Assessing Preference of Mand Topographies During Functional Communication Training

JESSICA TORELLI (Vanderbilt), Joseph Michael Lambert (Vanderbilt University), Maria-Alexandra Da Fonte (Vanderbilt University), Nealetta Houchins-Juarez (Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Behavior Analysis Consulting Services), Katherine Denham (Vanderbilt University), Thomas Jedrzynski (Vanderbilt University)

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is often used to support individuals who present complex communication needs. Although various researchers have evaluated subject preference for AAC modalities, only one has done so within the context of assessment and treatment of problem behavior and in the presence of relevant establishing operations (EO). Because the success of interventions like functional communication training (FCT) may hinge upon factors such as client proficiency with, and preference for, a targeted communicative response, it may be important to evaluate proficiency and preference in the presence of problem behaviors controlling variables. Our subject was a 4-year-old diagnosed with autism who engaged in aggression and had experience communicating via picture exchange and voice output devices (i.e., iPad and GoTalk). However, he did not mand for functional reinforcers during baseline (i.e., relevant FA conditions). We conducted FCT and reinforced mands mediated by each modality in each of three separate treatment conditions, while tracking rates of manding and aggression. Then, we conducted a concurrent-chains preference assessment to identify the subjects preferred modality. Finally, we presented assessment results to the subjects parent and asked her to indicate her own preference. Parent and subject preference aligned and we completed therapy using the iPad.

Preference for Social Interaction in Individuals with Autism
CASEY CLAY (Utah State University), Andrew L. Samaha (University of South Florida), Sarah E. Bloom (University of South Florida), Bistra Bogoev (Utah State University), Megan A. Boyle (Missouri State University)
Abstract: We evaluated the degree to which social interactions are reinforcing for individuals with autism by comparing the reinforcing properties of three different stimulus classes. First we determined a relative preference hierarchy among three stimulus classes (food, vocal, physical interaction) in individuals with autism. Next, we evaluated the relationship between preference and reinforcer effectiveness within these classes. Finally, for individuals who prefer physical/vocal consequences, we evaluated if adding the other component, physical or vocal, increase the effectiveness of that interaction as a reinforcer. Preference hierarchies were established across and between stimulus classes. Reinforcing efficacy of combining stimuli is pending.

Predictive Validity of Indirect Versus Direct Preference Assessment Methods in Early Education Classrooms

KELLEY L. HARRISON (The University of Kansas), Courtney Moore (The University of Kansas), Pamela L. Neidert (The University of Kansas)

Teachers in an early education classroom were asked to identify and rank 10 preferred stimuli for 12 toddlers. A hierarchy for these items was identified via a multiple-stimulus-without-replacement (MSWO) preference assessment. Reinforcer assessments were conducted with each child to determine the reinforcing efficacy of both the highest and lowest preferred items identified by each method. Further, the entire assessment was conducted with novice practicum teachers within the initial weeks of their practicum semester and again with these teachers four months later to determine the extent to which level of expertise may influence the degree of correspondence between indirect and direct assessment. Results to date suggest that there is relatively poor correspondence between teacher-reported rankings as compared to direct assessment rankings. Overall, items identified as both low- and high-preferred functioned as reinforcers, at least under single-operant arrangements. Results were idiosyncratic (across and with subjects) under concurrent-operant arrangements. Results of the pre-post assessment comparisons are pending. The degree of correspondence between indirect and direct preference assessments, predictive validity, assessment efficiency, and the degree to which teacher expertise influences assessment correspondence will be discussed.

Order of Selections in the Multiple-stimulus without Replacement Preference Assessment
CHRISTOPHER T ROATH (University of Houston - Clear Lake), Jennifer N. Fritz (University of Houston-Clear Lake)
Abstract: Studies have shown that the multiple-stimulus without replacement (MSWO) preference assessment is an effective assessment format for identifying preferred items; however, it is possible that rule-governed behavior or other factors might influence selections in some instances. For example, some individuals might select their most preferred item last in the MSWO format in an effort to “save the best for last.” Alternatively, individuals might select items in a particular order due to qualities of the preceding choice (e.g., selecting a sweet following a salty food item). In this study, MSWO results were evaluated by comparing the first and last selection of the MSWO assessment in a paired-stimulus (PS) format, using varying edible items in each study. Results showed that the MSWO format accurately identified the most preferred edible item in most instances; however, the MSWO did not predict the most highly preferred item for several participants. These results suggest that, in some cases, a paired-stimulus assessment or alternative arrangements might produce better results than the MSWO assessment.



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