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 #304
CE Offered: BACB
Making the Treatment Work! Recent Updates in Stimulus Selection as Reinforcers and Response Persistences
Sunday, May 27, 2018
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Grand Hall A
Area: DDA/EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Cormac MacManus (New England Center for Children; Western New England University)
Discussant: Tiffany Kodak (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee)
CE Instructor: Tiffany Kodak, M.S.

In this symposium, we will review strategies for identifying appropriate stimuli as reinforcers for individuals with developmental disabilities, and the parameters for the persistence of a targeted problem behavior when utilizing a reinforcement based intervention. The first presenter will share an assessment of preference and reinforcing value of social interactions via video presentation vs. picture presentation. Our second presentation will explore the correspondence between the results of a paired stimulus preference assessment and a progressive ratio schedule assessment. The third presenter will share data demonstrating the persistence strengthening effects of a reinforcement based intervention for automatically maintained behavior and a potential solution of this effect. Our final presenter will review data that suggests that resurgence of problem behavior during extinction following a reinforcement based intervention can mediated by programming a period of extinction prior to the implementation of treatment.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behavioral persistence, preference assessment, reinforcer efficacy
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1. Describe a method of determining a preference hierarchy for social stimuli 2. Describe additional assessments to determine the reinforcing efficacy of stimuli from preference assessments 3. Describe the predictions of behavioral momentum theory in relation to differential reinforcement of other behavior and behavioral persistence of automatically maintained behavior 4. Describe a method of mediating resurgence of problem behavior following differential reinforcement of alternative behavior interventions

Assessment of Preference and Reinforcing Value of Social Interactions for Individuals With Developmental Disabilities

DANIELLE L. GUREGHIAN (Garden Academy), Lynn Service (University of British Columbia), Laura L. Grow (Garden Academy), Lauren Goodwyn (Caldwell University)

Pictorial depictions of social stimuli are most common for preference assessments of social interactions (Kelly, Roscoe, Hanley, & Schlichenmeyer, 2014; Lang et al., 2014). However, social stimuli are dynamic and videos may better depict the salient features of social stimuli (Synder, Higbee, & Dayton, 2012). The purpose of the study was to assess the preference and reinforcing value of social stimuli using a video-based preference assessment and subsequent reinforcer assessment. To date, two children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder between 3- and 5-years old participated in the study. The study was conducted in three phases. First, the experimenter interviewed caregivers to identify a list of preferred social interactions. Next, the experimenter evaluated the top six ranked social stimuli using a video-based, paired-choice preference assessment. Finally, the experimenter evaluated the reinforcing quality of high- and low-preference social stimuli using a concurrent operants, progressive-ratio reinforcer assessment. The video-based preference assessment results were predictive of the reinforcer assessment results. The results will be discussed in terms of future research directions and clinical practice.


Correspondence Between and Stability of Paired Stimulus Preference Assessment and Progressive Ratio Schedule Data

SHAWN J. JANETZKE (New England Center for Children), Jason C. Bourret (New England Center for Children)

Stimulus preference assessments are used to identify a stimulus hierarchy, in which stimuli are ranked according to their relative reinforcing efficacy. Paired stimulus preference assessments (PSPA) and progressive ratio (PR) schedules are a commonly used method to determine the relative reinforcer efficacy of stimuli. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the correspondence between and stability of PSPA and PR schedule data for the same six edible stimuli. The data in the PR did not reach steady state for any of the three participants, whereas the data in the PSPA showed a relatively high degree of stability for all participants. This was supported by findings from secondary analyses, such as Kendall's W coefficient of concordance, relative variance, and mean correlation between sessions. Further analysis showed a limited degree of correspondence between the PSPA and PR rank data. Additionally, there was a range of positive correlation across participants (0.10, 0.43, 0.63, 0.85) between the PSPA and PR data. Interobserver agreement was collected for a minimum of 33% of sessions with an average of 99.7% agreement in the PSPA and 95.2% agreement in the PR.


Assessing the Effects of a Modified Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior Procedure From the Perspective of Behavioral Momentum Theory

Kylee Drugan-Eppich (New England Center for Children), ALEX ELFONT (New England Center for Children), Brandi Todaro (New England Center for Children), William H. Ahearn (New England Center for Children)

Reinforcement-based decelerative procedures (e.g., differential reinforcement of other behavior or DRO and differential reinforcement of alternative behavior or DRA) are commonly used in applied settings. Research has found that these treatments can decrease problem behavior but may increase response persistence. Behavioral momentum theory predicts that reinforcers added to a situation in which problem behavior occurs may contribute to its overall persistence. The present study compared a DRO with a modified DRO to determine whether modifying the delivery of reinforcement could decrease the persistence-building effects of the intervention. Participants were two students at a school and residential facility for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Interobserver agreement was obtained for 30% of sessions and was above 90%. In the standard DRO condition, reinforcers were delivered in the context in which stereotypy was observed after a specified interval had elapsed in the absence of stereotypy. In the modified DRO condition, reinforcers were delivered in a different location after that interval had elapsed. While the modified DRO was found to be less effective, greater behavioral persistence was observed in the context in which the standard DRO was implemented. These findings suggest that modifying reinforcement delivery with single reinforcement-based procedures may decrease behavioral persistence.


Evaluating the Role of Extinction in a Human Operant Model of Resurgence

BRIANNA LAUREANO (University of Florida), David J. Cox (University of Florida), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida)

Resurgence of problem behavior may occur following the discontinuation of differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA). One possible explanation is that dense schedules of reinforcement for the alternative response, and the ensuing shift in response allocation, makes it unlikely that the target response fully contacts extinction. We examined this possibility in an analog model of problem behavior with college students. Some participants experienced the conventional ABC resurgence paradigm (A=reinforcement of target behavior, B=differential reinforcement of alternative behavior, C=extinction of both responses; the resurgence test). Other participants experienced a four-phase sequence in which extinction of the target response preceded DRA. If resurgence occurs because the target response is not fully extinguished in the conventional paradigm, we would expect less resurgence when extinction is implemented before DRA (i.e., the four-phase participants). The results thus far confirm this, but only if the target behavior shows evidence of extinction during the initial extinction phase.




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