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 #22
CE Offered: BACB
Recent Advances in the Production and Maintenance of Response Variability
Saturday, May 23, 2015
1:00 PM–2:50 PM
Grand Ballroom C1 (CC)
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Joseph D. Dracobly (Eastern Connecticut State University)
Discussant: Allen Neuringer (Reed College)
CE Instructor: Joseph D. Dracobly, Ph.D.
Abstract: Response variability involves systematic changes in a dimension of a response from instance to instance and is important in various complex behaviors such as creativity, problem solving, communication, and the treatment of stereotyped behavior (see Lee, Sturmey, & Fields, 2007 for a review). The current symposium involve four presentations regarding recent advances in the production and maintenance of response variability. Methods and results will be discussed involving the prevalence of response variability in young children with and without intellectual and development disabilities. Three studies involve determining the influence of lag reinforcement schedules for increasing variability in responding. Of these three studies, two studies compare the effects of smaller and larger lag schedules for the production in response variability. Finally, two studies discuss the methods and procedures to promote and maintenance and stimulus control of both repetitive and variation in responding. Discussion regarding the implications and limitations of the procedures and results, as well as suggestions for future research will be included.
Keyword(s): lag schedules, response variability, stimulus control

Increasing Verbal Response Variability with a Lag Schedule of Reinforcement

Jessica J. Simacek (University of Minnesota), Jennifer J. McComas (University of Minnesota), KATHRYN MASON (University of Minnesota)

Previous research has demonstrated the efficacy of lag schedules of reinforcement to increase variability in verbal responding (Lee, McComas, & Jawor, 2002). Therefore, lag schedules may be an effective intervention for increasing variability in verbal initiations, such as with conversation initiation by commenting or asking a question about relevant stimuli. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the conditions under which a lag schedule of reinforcement increased novel initiated verbalizations for a participant with developmental delay (male, age 13) who engaged in frequent perseverative language that interfered with his clinical programming. Following a functional analysis of the perseverative language, a lag schedule was used to reinforce varied appropriate verbalizations initiated to an interventionist. All perseverative verbalizations were on extinction. Results indicated an attention function for perseverative language, and preliminary evidence of increased variability with initiated verbalizations during intervention. These data are discussed with implications for intervention to increase response variability, with particular relevance to individuals who engage in repetitive, or perseverative verbal behavior.

An Application of a Lag Contingency to Reduce Perseveration on Circumscribed Interests during Sustained Conversation
TRACY L. LEPPER (McNeese State University), Bailey Devine (Texas Christian University), Anna I. Petursdottir (Texas Christian University)
Abstract: Some individuals with autism tend to perseverate on circumscribed interests (CIs) in conversation, which may interfere with peer relations (Nadig, Lee, Singh, Bosshart, & Ozonoff, 2010). We evaluated the effects of a lag contingency on the prevalence of CI-related and CI-unrelated talk with two adolescents diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder who readily sustained conversation with others, but perseverated on CIs. A functional analysis suggested that the participants’ verbal behavior was sensitive to a conversation-partner’s attention as a consequence. In baseline, the conversation partner provided attention at the end of each 10-s interval in which the participant directed conversation at the partner. In the Lag 1 condition, the conversation partner provided attention only at the end of intervals in which there was a change in topics from the previous interval (all CIs were counted as one topic), and in the Lag 2 condition, attention was provided only at the end of intervals in which the topic differed from the two previous intervals. Lag 1 produced increases in the percentage of intervals that included CI-unrelated talk for both participants. For one participant, Lag 1 also produced substantial decreases in CI-related talk, but Lag 2 did not produce further behavior change. For the other participant, Lag 1 did not decrease CI-related talk, but Lag 2 did. Although the lag contingencies successfully altered the prevalence of CI-related and –unrelated talk, further research is needed to identify appropriate treatment goals with respect to variability and content.
The Use of a Discrimination Training Procedure to Teach Mand Variability to Children with Autism
MATTHEW T. BRODHEAD (Purdue University), Thomas S. Higbee (Utah State University), Kristina Gerencser (Utah State University ), Jessica Akers (Utah State University)
Abstract: This study investigated the effects of a script fading and discrimination training procedure on mand variability in preschoolers with autism. Participants were taught to vary their vocal mands in the presence of written scripts, a green placemat, and a lag schedule of reinforcement. They were also taught to engage in repetitive mands in the presence of the same written scripts and a red placemat. When the scripts were removed, all three participants continued to engage in varied manding in the presence of the green placemat and lag schedule, and they continued to engage in repetitive manding in the presence of the red placemat. When the lag schedule was also removed, two of the three participants continued to engage in varied responding in the presence of the green placemat and repetitive responding in the presence of the red placemat. Finally, all three participants demonstrated generalization and maintenance of mand variability during snack sessions when their peers were present.
An Evaluation of Procedures that Affect Response Variability
JOSEPH D. DRACOBLY (Eastern Connecticut State University), Claudia L. Dozier (The University of Kansas), Adam M. Briggs (The University of Kansas), Jessica Foster (The University of Kansas)
Abstract: Response variability has traditionally been studied as both a by-product of schedules of reinforcement and as a dimension of operant behavior. More recently, researchers have focused on inducement (via extinction), direct reinforcement (via percentile and lag schedules), and stimulus control of response variability. The purposes of the current study were to (a) determine general levels of response variability across a large number of young children, (b) replicate and extend previous research on effects of various procedures on the production and maintenance of both variable and novel responses, and (c) determine if stimuli correlated with response variability and response repetition contingencies could immediately affect response variability. In Study 1, there was a nearly bi-modal distribution of participants who emitted low and high variability. In Study 2, for the majority of children, variability increased when exposed to extinction but both fixed-lag 4 and variable-lag 4 schedules produced the highest levels of variability and novelty. Finally, in Study 3, stimuli correlated with each contingency were effectively used to evoke relatively rapid alternation between repetition and variation. Implications and considerations for future researchers will be discussed.



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