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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #244
Theory and Practice of Misophonia: A Multisensory Conditioned Respondent Behavior Disorder
Sunday, May 26, 2019
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Swissôtel, Lucerne Ballroom Level, Lucerne 1/2
Area: PCH/CBM; Domain: Translational
Chair: Thomas H. Dozier (Misophonia Treatment Institute)
Discussant: Emily Thomas Johnson (Behavior Attention and Developmental Disabilities Consultants, LLC)
CE Instructor: Emily Thomas Johnson, M.S.

Misophonia is an understudied but relatively common respondent behavior condition, the effects of which range from annoying to debilitating. Misophonia is known as a condition where commonly occurring innocuous stimuli (e.g. chewing sound) elicit anger and accompanying physiological responses which function as motivating operations for overt aggression and escape. Although there are some common misophonic stimuli, each person has a unique set of stimuli, which often includes auditory and visual stimuli, but can be any sensory modality. Misophonia is similar to general sensory sensitivity which is common with autism, but the management and intervention for each are quite different. Misophonia was first identified and named by audiologists and has been considered a hearing disorder. Recently misophonia has come to be viewed as an anger disorder and the focus of psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuroscience. Behaviorally, misophonia may be considered a classically conditioned physical respondent phenomenon, and it may be more appropriate to view misophonia as a conditioned behavioral disorder.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): classical conditioning, misophonia, motivating operation, respondent behavior
Target Audience:

Behavior analysts, psychologists, school counselors, and other clinicians

Learning Objectives: 1. Identify 3 or more common misophonic stimuli in at least 2 stimulus modalities. 2. Identify the key difference in the theory of stimulus-stimulus classical conditioning and stimulus-response classical conditioning. 3. Explain how the theory of stimulus-response classical conditioning provides a plausible theory for why misophonic responses strengthen with real-life exposure to trigger stimuli.
Theory of Misophonia: A Stimulus-Response Classically Conditioned Behavior
THOMAS H. DOZIER (Misophonia Treatment Institute)
Abstract: Misophonia is a respondent behavior condition that has only been observed in humans, therefore basic research concerning the etiology of misophonia is not possible. With misophonia, common stimuli such as the sound of chewing, sniffing, or visual images of other chewing of leg jiggling elicit a very distressing reflex response. Research studies indicate misophonia consists of conditioned emotional responses and physical respondents. A review of this limited literature will be included. Case reports studies indicate that the physical respondent of misophonia has similar topography to unconscious operant or respondent behavior occurring during onset of misophonia. A basic theory for development of respondent behavior is stimulus-response classical conditioning. The theory of stimulus-response classical conditioning will be examined and contrasted with stimulus-stimulus classical conditioning theory. The misophonic response does not typically extinguish with repeated exposure or prolonged avoidance. A theory for this will be explained using stimulus-response classical conditioning theory. Treatment cases will be reviewed which indicate possible options for interventions to remediate the misophonic response.

Behavioral Treatment of Problem Behavior Evoked by Bodily Sounds in an Adult With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
SHAJI HAQ (Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc.), Juan Rafael (Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc.), Ken Nhu (Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc.), Ignacio Aviles (Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc.), Cristain Ceja (Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc.), Trong Pham (Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc.), Amber Shults (Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc.), Joyce C. Tu (Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc.)

Misophonia is characterized by an autonomic response that is elicited by certain innocuous or repetitive sounds (Edelstein, Brang, Rouw, & Ramachandran, 2013), and individuals with misophonia may display an extreme, overt response commonly associated with rage, hatred, and a loss of self-control (Dozier, 2015). In this investigation, we used an operant approach to treat problem behavior evoked by bodily sounds (i.e., coughing, sneezing, sniffling, and clearing throat) for a young adult with autism spectrum disorder. The procedure involved pairing bodily sounds with preferred edibles at fixed intervals and withholding attention from the participant if he engaged in problem behavior (i.e., attention extinction). In addition, problem behavior did not produce any delays to the presentation of the next bodily sound (i.e., escape extinction). The intervention produced immediate reductions of problem behavior and the effects of treatment maintained during progressively lean schedules of reinforcement. A brief review of past research, along with implications for research and clinical practice will be discussed.




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