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 #456
CE Offered: BACB
Behavioral Economics: Novel Applications to Basic and Applied Research
Monday, May 28, 2018
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Rancho Santa Fe 1-3
Area: EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Abigail Blackman (University of Kansas)
Discussant: Mikhail Koffarnus (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute)
CE Instructor: Mikhail Koffarnus, M.S.

This symposium includes four talks that span basic to applied experimental investigations using a behavioral economic framework. Two of the presentations summarize behavioral economic demand analyses. Novak will share findings of a study that assessed the effects of incentive arrangements on college student performance on a computerized group work task. Naud will describe results of a study that examined the extent to which digital and print media interact with operant demand and delay of gratification, using the "marshmallow test" with preschool children. The remaining two presentations will summarize discounting analyses. Stancato will present a study that assessed whether college students are more likely to complete or pass on a terminal investment, after previously completing an initial investment, as it relates to sunk cost and alcohol use. Call will then share results of an investigation on caregivers' choice between immediate or delayed access to services for children with problem behavior or skill deficits. The symposium will conclude with discussant remarks by Mikhail Koffarnus.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behavioral economics, demand, discounting, translational research
Target Audience:

Researchers and practitioners interested in applying behavioral economic analyses to socially relevant problems

An Experimental Evaluation of Cooperation and Productivity in a Simulated Group Work Task
(Basic Research)
MATTHEW NOVAK (University of Kansas), Florence D. DiGennaro Reed (University of Kansas), Amy J. Henley (Western New England University), Peter G. Roma (National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Institutes for Behavior Resources )
Abstract: Work in organizational settings often takes place in group formats, where employees rely on one another to be productive. However, there has been little empirical research evaluating the effects of incentives on social behaviors in group settings. The present study evaluated the effects of incentive arrangements on performance in a computerized group work task. Participants scored one point by clicking on a block and dragging it into a target zone. Hidden barriers were located throughout the field and participants lost one point if a block contacted a barrier. Participants were assigned three barriers that only they could see; participants could reveal a barrier to teammates as desired. Thus, participants could allocate time toward scoring points or assisting teammates. Three-person teams completed the task for one of two monetary incentives: (a) fixed incentive, where each member earned $1.00 independent of performance and (b) individual incentive, where each member earned $0.10/point for his/her respective score. Teams were also assigned to an unrestricted (communication allowed throughout the experiment) or restricted (no communication allowed during trials) condition. Participants in both the unrestricted and restricted communication conditions revealed fewer barriers (i.e., were less cooperative) under the individual incentive condition relative to the fixed incentive condition.
A Behavioral Economic Assessment of Print and Screen Media Consumption in Preschool Children
(Basic Research)
GIDEON NAUDE (University of Kansas), Derek D. Reed (The University of Kansas), Christopher Cintron (University of Kansas), Matthew Novak (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Digital media is ever-present in the lives of young children and an examination of the behavioral byproducts following the use of these modalities is timely. The present study assessed the extent to which digital and print media interact with operant demand and delay of gratification in preschool children. Participants were seven boys (Mage = 3.82 years; SD = 0.24) recruited from a university-run preschool. In Phase 1, participants allocated responses to buttons providing access to either a picture book at a fixed-price (FR-1) or an iPad containing identical stimuli available at increasing prices (FR-5 – FR-200) to examine substitution effects. In Phase 2, across nine sessions, participants received 5-min access to either the picture book, the iPad, or a fast-paced interactive iPad game, three times each in a randomized sequence; each engagement was immediately followed by a delay of gratification task (i.e., the Marshmallow Test). In the Marshmallow Test, participants could consume a single piece of a preferred edible at any point, or wait 10-min to receive two pieces. Delay of gratification was the longest for all participants following access to print media. We discuss lower wait times following digital media conditions within the conceptual framework of escape from rich-to-lean transitions.
On Sunk Cost and Alcohol Use
(Basic Research)
STEFANIE S. STANCATO (University of Kansas), Michael Sofis (The University of Kansas), Shea M. Lemley (The University of Kansas), David P. Jarmolowicz (The University of Kansas)
Abstract: Many studies have examined the link between delay discounting and alcohol use problems. The relations, however, are inconsistent. Another manifestation of temporal attention, the sunk cost effect (where an initial investment of time, effort, or money differentially increases the likelihood of continued investment), may be more consistently related to alcohol use. In the present study, students made differential initial investments prior to choosing to complete or pass on a terminal investment. Subjects’ were more likely to complete the terminal investment after a larger initial investment, indicative of the sunk cost. We linked these patterns of responding to clinical measures of alcohol use. The greater propensity to commit the sunk cost was significantly correlated with lower rates of delay discounting. Further, a significant relations between sunk cost instances and weeks of excessive drinking (F = 2.68, p = .046) but not delay discounting and heavy drinking (F = .16, P = .054) were obtained. Interestingly, despite the correlation between sunk cost and delay discounting, there was no relation between delay discounting and any measure of alcohol use. This suggests that the sunk cost effect may relate to the underlying decision-making mechanisms of alcohol misuse.

Discounting of Delayed Treatment Outcomes by Parents of Children With Problem Behavior or Skill Deficits

(Applied Research)
NATHAN CALL (Emory University School of Medicine; Marcus Autism Center), Mindy C. Scheithauer (Emory University School of Medicine; Marcus Autism Center), Scott Gillespie (Emory University School of Medicine), Sarah Wymer (Marcus Autism Center), Shannon K. Hewett (Marcus Autism Center)

Humans exhibit a bias against delayed outcomes (Critchfield & Kollins, 2001). This predisposition has been most often shown for delayed monetary rewards (Dixon, Mui Ker Lik, Green, & Myerson 2013) and consumable commodities, such as food (Green, Myerson, Holt, Slevin, & Estle 2004) or drugs (Madden, Petry, Badger, & Bickel 1997). Delay discounting studies have resulted in quantitative models that account for the data from these paradigms well. Recently, Call et al. (2015) demonstrated that when parents of children with ASD and problem behavior made choices between treatments that would produce cessation of their child's problem behavior immediately or after a delay, they discounted the results of delayed treatment outcomes in a manner consistent with temporal discounting. This study extended those of Call et al. in two ways: a) treatment outcomes were presented as a percentage of treatment goals each treatment would achieve, rather than periods of differing durations without problem behavior, and b) half of the participants (n=20) were caregivers of children with ASD receiving treatment for problem behavior, whereas the other half were caregivers whose children were receiving treatment for skill deficits. Results showed that caregivers of children with problem behavior discounted delayed treatment outcomes more steeply.




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