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Association for Behavior Analysis International

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43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #33
Establishing and Evaluating Conditioned Reinforcers With Individuals With Developmental Disabilities
Saturday, May 27, 2017
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 1C/D
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Talia Crabb (Caldwell University)
Discussant: Anthony DeFulio (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: This symposium comprises four papers about the establishment and evaluation of conditioned reinforcers with individuals with developmental disabilities. The first paper provides a history of the research on establishing conditioned reinforcers in humans, reviews terms used in this literature, and provides a quantitative review of studies that evaluated procedures for establishing conditioned reinforcers with individuals with developmental disabilities. The second paper assessed the behavioral effects of praise in children diagnosed with ASD and found that it maintained responses but did not result in acquisition of new responses. In the third paper, the reinforcing value of tokens was tested in a multielement design with three individuals with autism. Results indicated that delay to the exchange period decreased response rate. The last paper used progressive-ratio schedules to directly compare the reinforcing efficacy of tokens to high- and low-preference edibles that were also used as backup reinforcers. For both participants, they found primary reinforcers to maintain a higher response frequency than did tokens. Recommendations for future research and applications to practice will be provided. Following these papers, Anthony Defulio will provide a discussion.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): conditioned reinforcement, pairing, praise, tokens
Establishing Conditioned Reinforcers With Individuals With Developmental Disabilities: A Review of the Literature
BEN RHODES (Caldwell University), Tina Sidener (Caldwell University), Catherine Taylor-Santa (Caldwell University)
Abstract: The establishment of stimuli as conditioned reinforcers is important in behavioral interventions for people with developmental disabilities. Empirically-derived procedures for establishing conditioned reinforcers could guide clinicians in developing a wider range of reinforcers and bringing behavior under control of natural contingencies of reinforcement, specifically social consequences. The current paper provides a history of the research on establishing conditioned reinforcers in humans, a review of the terms used in this literature, and a quantitative review of studies that evaluated procedures for establishing conditioned reinforcers with individuals with developmental disabilities. Finally, suggestions for future research in this area are provided.
Does Praise Function as a Conditioned Reinforcer in Children With ASD?
CORINA JIMENEZ-GOMEZ (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Florida Institute of Technology), Alex Forton (Florida Institute of Technology), Karli Silverman (Florida Institute of Technology), Ashley Abel (Florida Institute of Technology), Michael E. Kelley (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Florida Institute of Technology), Christopher A. Podlesnik (Florida Institute of Technology)
Abstract: Stimuli predicting the availability of established reinforcers can acquire the capacity to control behavior. Although traditionally discussed as strengthening of behavior by conditioned reinforcement, it is possible such stimuli might influence behavior only by signaling the availability of other reinforcers. Individuals diagnosed with ASD often have difficulty discriminating and being sensitive to social cues and consequences, such as praise. The purpose of the current study is to assess the behavioral effects of praise, often considered a generalized conditioned reinforcer, in children diagnosed with ASD. In the present study, we tested for traditional conditioned-reinforcement effects. During baseline, mastered responses were reinforced with food or food + praise. Praise maintained behavior when food was removed for both responses and subsequent contingency reversals reversed performance accordingly. These findings reveal praise can maintain and re-establish previously learned responses. Next, praise was used to train the acquisition of new responses, as a test for the reinforcing function of praise. Participants were unable to acquire new responses under this arrangement. Thus far, praise does not appear to function as a conditioned reinforcer; instead, it likely serves a discriminative function.
Effects of Delay on Token Reinforcement
MARY KATHERINE CAREY (Western New England University), Jason C. Bourret (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Token economies are ubiquitous across educational settings. These reinforcement systems operate by making tokens delivered contingent on a target behavior exchangeable for primary reinforcement. Tokens, initially neutral stimuli, gain reinforcing efficacy through repeated pairings with back-up stimuli. However, there is often temporal discontinuity between the delivery of the tokens and their exchange for back-up reinforcers. For instance, a student may earn tokens throughout the day for academic tasks but not exchange them for primary reinforcement until the end of the day. Thus, it is unclear 1) whether tokens function as conditioned reinforcers and 2) if so, whether the delay to exchange affects their reinforcing efficacy. In the current study, the reinforcing value of tokens was tested in a multielement design with three individuals with autism. Tokens were established as reinforcers if necessary. A progressive-ratio schedule was used to determine the effects of delay to token exchanges. Results indicate that tokens either functioned as reinforcers or could be established as such. Additionally, delay to the exchange period decreased response rate. Mean proportional agreement data were collected for a minimum of 33% of all sessions across conditions and averaged 96% in the conditioned reinforcer assessment and 96% in the delay assessment.
Comparing the Relative Efficacy of Tokens and Backup Reinforcers
STEPHANIE BONFONTE (New England Center for Children), Jason C. Bourret (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Token economies are one of the most commonly used behavior analytic interventions. Despite literature supporting the use of tokens as tools for behavior change, little is known about the reinforcing value of tokens compared to that of the items for which they are exchanged. Results of previous research comparing the reinforcing efficacy of tokens and primary reinforcers have shown that both produce similar effects on responding. However, this research is limited because token reinforcement conditions also included the delivery of primary reinforcers. The purpose of the current study was to compare the reinforcing efficacy of tokens to high- and low-preference items for which they were exchangeable. Two adolescent males, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, who attended a school for children with developmental disabilities participated in the study. Initially, we established novel tokens as reinforcers. We then conducted a conditioned reinforcer assessment using a tandem control to ensure that the tokens functioned as reinforcers. Following this, progressive-ratio schedules were used to directly compare the reinforcing efficacy of the tokens to high- and low-preference edibles that were also used as backup reinforcers. For both participants, we found primary reinforcers to maintain a higher response frequency than did tokens. These data suggest the use of primary reinforcement in situations where greater reinforcement effects are necessary.
 

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