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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #190
CE Offered: BACB
Recent Research on Improving the Efficiency and Accuracy of Abbreviated Functional Analyses
Sunday, May 27, 2018
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Grand Hall D
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
Discussant: Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida)
CE Instructor: Brian A. Iwata, Ph.D.

A large body of research has demonstrated the benefit of conducting a functional analysis (FA) prior to initiating the treatment of destructive behavior. For example, multiple studies have shown that when function-based treatments are used, reinforcement-based procedures are more likely to be effective and punishment procedures are often unnecessary (Greer, Fisher, Saini, Owen, & Jones, 2016; Kuhn, DeLeon, Fisher, & Wilke, 1999; Pelios, Morren, Tesch, & Axelrod, 1999; Smith, Iwata, Vollmer, & Zarcone, 1992). Although research has repeatedly shown the benefits of FA, many clinicians continue to use less reliable assessment methods to identify the function of destructive behavior, in part due to their ease of implementation. The purpose of this symposium is to explore the efficiency and accuracy of a number of functional analysis variations. The presentations will cover (a) a translational investigation of individual versus synthesized contingencies during FA, (b) structured criterion used to investigate the efficiency of various FA types, and (c) the progression from brief to more extended FA methods.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): efficacy, efficiency, functional analysis
Target Audience:

clinicians, clinical researchers

Learning Objectives: 1. Audience members will be able to describe various functional analysis methods 2. Audience members will be able to describe the accuracy of various functional analysis methods 3. Audience members will be able to describe the efficiency of various functional analysis methods
Exposure of Single-Function Responses to Combined Reinforcement Contingencies
LEAH JULIA KOEHLER (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida)
Abstract: A common feature of almost all functional analysis (FA) variations reported over the past 30 years has been use of an experimental analysis to isolate a specific contingency that maintains problem behavior. Hanley et al. (2014) proposed a noticeable departure, initially called the synthesized functional analysis (SFA). The procedure typically involves combining contingencies, and results across studies have shown a preponderance of multiple control. By contrast, major reviews of published FA data have reported that multiple control is a relatively uncommon outcome. Given this discrepancy, the purpose of our study was twofold: (a) to replicate and extend the general findings of the Fisher et al. (2016) comparative analysis using a translational preparation, and (b) to expose responses with unique and known histories of reinforcement to test conditions containing single versus combined contingencies. An analogue response was established under a specific reinforcement contingency and then was exposed sequentially to conditions similar to those of a standard FA and an SFA. Seven subjects have completed the study. Data for three of the four subjects whose target responses were maintained by a single social contingency showed a false positive outcome for multiple control when exposed the combined contingencies, as seen in the attached graphs. Data for the three subjects whose target response was maintained by automatic reinforcement showed insensitivity to social consequences when presented either singly in the regular FA or in the combined test condition. Clinical implications of the findings will be discussed.

Ongoing Visual-Inspection Criteria for Interpreting Functional Analyses

VALDEEP SAINI (Upstate Medical University), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Billie Retzlaff (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)

Research has evaluated the reliability and validity of structured criteria for inspecting functional-analysis (FA) results on a post-hoc basis (i.e., post-hoc visual inspection (PHVI). However, most behavior analysts inspect FAs using ongoing visual inspection (OVI), and the validity of applying structured criteria during OVI remains unknown. We evaluated the validity and efficiency of applying structured criteria on an ongoing basis by comparing the interpretations produced through OVI with (a) PHVI, (b) authors' post-hoc interpretations (PHAI), and (c) the consensus of these two post-hoc analyses. Ongoing visual inspection predicted the results of (a) PHVI and the consensus interpretations with a very high degree of accuracy and (b) PHAI with a reasonably high degree of accuracy. Furthermore, the PHVI and PHAI results involved 32 FA sessions, on average, whereas the OVI required only 19 FA sessions to accurately identify the function(s) of problem behavior. Findings are discussed relative to other methods designed to increase the accuracy and efficiency of FAs.


Efficiency in Functional Analysis of Problem Behavior: A Quantitative and Qualitative Review

BILLIE RETZLAFF (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Valdeep Saini (Upstate Medical University), Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)

Originating in the mid-1960s, functional analysis (FA) has become the gold standard method for understanding the environmental variables that come to shape and maintain problematic behaviors such as aggression, self-injury, and property destruction. Over the decades a number of studies have refined FA methods, attempting to influence the overall efficiency of the analysis, including experimental design and procedural modifications. In the present review, we used ongoing visual-inspection criteria and basic probability theory to compare and analyze levels of efficiency across FA types. We found the pairwise design, multielement design, and synthesized analyses to be about equally efficient with respect to the average number of sessions conducted per function tested, and found the trial-based and synthesized contingency analysis to be the two most efficient with respect to the average duration per function tested. We discuss the implications of these findings in the broader context of efficiency and provide recommendations for maximizing efficiency during an FA. We also discuss other qualitative procedural details that may influence the overall efficiency of an FA.


Integration of Functional Analysis Procedural Advancements: Progressing From Brief to Extended Experimental Analyses

Michael E. Kelley (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Florida Institute of Technology), JUSTINE HENRY (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Florida Institute of Technology), Robert LaRue (The Douglas Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Tracy L. Kettering (ABA Center for Excellence), Dana M. Gadaire (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Florida Institute of Technology)

Despite the utility of functional analysis methodology, not all functional analyses produce differentiated results. Factors such as interaction effects, multiple control, or methodological inefficiencies may compromise obtaining differentiated outcomes. Vollmer et. al. (1995) proposed an assessment sequence for progressing from brief to extended experimental analyses. Since this publication; however, various studies have addressed other methods to improve the efficiency and efficacy of functional analysis methodology. The purpose of the current study was to update and extend the assessment sequence proposed by Vollmer et. al. (1995) for progressing from brief to extended experimental analyses. Specifically, our assessment model incorporated several procedural refinements developed over the years since the Vollmer et. al. (1995) model was proposed. The current model incorporated five phases including extended ignore, brief functional analysis, extended functional analysis, extended ignore, and reversal. We conducted assessments with 20 participants diagnosed with autism or other related disabilities. Participants were referred to 3 different clinics for functional analyses due the occurrence of various topographies of problem behavior. Overall, results validate previous assessment modifications proposed in the literature, support the utility of the updated model, and provide new and valuable insight regarding the assessment of problem behavior.




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