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 #424
CE Offered: BACB
Novel Applications of Preference and Reinforcer Assessment Methodologies
Monday, May 28, 2018
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Seaport Ballroom DE
Area: PRA/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jennifer N. Haddock (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Discussant: Henry S. Roane (Upstate Medical University)
CE Instructor: Jennifer N. Haddock, Ph.D.

Assessing individuals' preferences for and the efficacy of stimuli used during behavioral interventions as well as the interventions themselves remains an important topic for research. In this symposium, novel applications of preference and reinforcer assessments will be presented. The research includes: (a) a methodology for assessing preference for social interactions (N=5); (b) an evaluation of edible versus leisure item displacement during preference assessments (N=26); (c) a comparison of individuals' responding for highly and moderately preferred stimuli under varying reinforcement parameters (N=6); and (d) a quantitative review of published research that assessed participants' preferences for instructional activities (N=132). Respectively, results of these studies showed that (a) differences in individual preferences for social interactions were observed; (b) edible stimuli do not always displace leisure stimuli in preference assessments; (c) insensitivity to changing reinforcement contingencies is response-specific and does not reflect a general pattern of responding; and (d) preference for instructional activities often, but not always, corresponded to treatment efficacy. Collectively, results of these studies further demonstrate the idiosyncratic nature of individual preferences and reemphasize the importance of conducting preference and reinforcer assessments prior to and during behavioral treatment. Implications for clinical practice will be discussed.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): application, practice, preference assessment, reinforcer assessment
Target Audience:

Clinicians, researchers

Assessing Preference for Types of Social Interaction
SAMUEL L. MORRIS (University of Florida; Florida Autism Center), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
Abstract: To date, few researchers have evaluated methods for assessing preference for social interactions. Due to concerns that commonly used stimulus preference assessment methods may be inappropriate, or at least cumbersome, for the assessment of social reinforcement, we developed and evaluated a new method of assessing preference for social interactions. The Social Interaction Preference Assessment (SIPA) includes more exposures to the contingencies prior to and during the assessment, required more consistency before a given response option was removed, and included stimulus cards that may be more easily discriminated from one another. A SIPA and a concurrent operant reinforcer assessment were conducted with 5 subjects diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A differentially preferred and reinforcing type of social interaction was identified for all 5 subjects. Direct correspondence between the SIPA and the concurrent operant reinforcer assessment was observed for 3 of 5 subjects. The SIPA procedures, results, and the implications of these results are discussed.
The Displacement of Leisure Items by Edible Items in Preference Assessments: A Replication
DANIEL E CONINE (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
Abstract: Prior research has reported a strong tendency for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to select edible items more often than leisure items when those items are presented together in stimulus preference assessments. However, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), with whom many behavior analysts engage in clinical practice, are underrepresented in the existing literature on this phenomenon. Several variables suggest that a replication of these studies with a contemporary population of children with ASD is warranted. We sought to replicate the results of prior research with 26 children with ASD, using a multiple stimulus without replacement assessment format. Results indicated that overall, edible items were more likely than leisure items to rank highly in our preference assessments, in concurrence with prior research. However, the strength and consistency of this tendency toward edible preference was lower than in prior research, and leisure items were selected more often than in prior research. Significant variation was also observed among individual participants. These results suggest that behavior analysts providing services to children with ASD should evaluate relative preference for edible and leisure items on an individual basis.

Comparison of Sensitivity to Changing Reinforcement Parameters in Individuals With Automatically and Socially Maintained Self-Injurious Behavior

ALEXANDER RODOLFO AREVALO (Kennedy Krieger Institute ), Griffin Rooker (Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine), Nabil Mezhoudi (New England Center for Children), Jennifer N. Haddock (Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine), Louis P. Hagopian (Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine)

Results of recent research suggest that automatically reinforced SIB (ASIB) appears comprised of distinct subtypes. One subtype (Subtype-ASIB) appears highly insensitive to concurrently available alternative reinforcement in both the context of assessment and treatment. It remains unclear whether this observed insensitivity to disruption by alternative reinforcement reflects a broader pattern of insensitive responding for these individuals across other responses, or whether it is specific to ASIB. As a preliminary means of addressing this question, the current study compared arbitrary responses (i.e., button presses) of six individuals' socially-reinforced SIB (n=3) or Subtype-2 ASIB (n=3) under various reinforcement conditions. Specifically, button pressing, which was reinforced using preferred edible stimuli, was examined under continuous, progressive-ratio, and extinction schedules. Results did not indicate any differences in sensitivity to schedule changes across groups. That is, individuals with Subtype-2 ASIB showed comparably similar degrees of sensitivity to schedule changes relative to individuals whose SIB was maintained by social reinforcement. These results provide preliminary evidence that insensitivity to disruption of SIB by alternative reinforcement, which is the hallmark of Subtype-2 ASIB, is specific to ASIB as a response class and does reflect a general insensitivity to alternative reinforcement across other response classes.

On the Relation Between Efficacy and Participant Preference for Behavioral Interventions
KISSEL JOSEPH GOLDMAN (University of Florida), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida), Catherine K. Martinez (Positive Behavior Supports)
Abstract: We aggregated studies that compared efficacy of and preference for multiple behavioral interventions to examine the relation between these variables across four categories of instructional activities. Thirty-two published studies met our inclusion criteria, yielding 144 distinct data sets for 132 participants. Fifty-eight of these participants were diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability, and the remaining 74 had no formal diagnoses or were described as typically developing. When considering all datasets, 69% revealed clear differences in efficacy; 88% revealed clear preference differences, and 60% revealed clear differences in both. When we considered all data sets, participants preferred the most effective intervention in 46% of datasets. When we considered only those data sets for which both a clear difference in preference and efficacy emerged, participants preferred the most effective intervention in 74% of data sets. Correspondence varied across categories of instructional activity. Also, developmental diagnosis appeared to have some influence on these outcomes. These results are discussed in terms of possible reasons for this degree of correspondence and potential implications for selection of behavioral interventions.



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