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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #153
Gratuity in the Community: Behavioral Science Studies of Interpersonal Gratitude
Saturday, May 23, 2020
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Level M4, Liberty M
Area: CSS/OBM; Domain: Translational
Chair: E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)

The three applied behavioral science studies proposed for this 50-minute symposium evaluated the impact of behavior-based interventions designed to increase expressions of gratitude in a community, a restaurant, and a classroom setting. For the first community-based study, pedestrian behavior was observed at three well-marked crosswalks on a university campus to assess the frequency of gratitude hand signals given to the drivers of stopped vehicles. A sign at the crosswalk with the prompt, “Please Thank Drivers with a Wave,” increased the overall percentages of gratitude waves from a low Baseline average of 7.1% to an average of 26%. For the second study, diners at local restaurants systematically recorded the behavior of their meal servers on two occasions: a Baseline condition and then with a sign on the table displaying, “Your Tip So Far” and the addition of a quarter following each desirable server behavior. This intervention increased the frequency of positive server-diner interactions from an average of 8.79 to 15 per hour. For the third study, students thanked their professors at the end of class with a special “Thank You Card” (TYC). The reactions of the professors were documented, as well as students’ mood-stated before and after delivering the TYC.

Instruction Level: Basic

Pedestrian-to-Driver Gratitude at Campus Crosswalks: Intervening to Increase a Low Baseline

(Applied Research)
MEGAN DIAMOND (Virginia Tech), Jack Wardale (Virginia Tech), Emily Warren (Virginia Tech), Jessie Yu (Virginia Tech)

For 21 consecutive weeks pedestrian-to-driver signs of gratitude were observed at two busy crosswalks at Virginia Tech in one-hour sessions between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. One observer randomly selected vehicles that stopped for pedestrians. That selection was relayed to the reliability observer for event recording. Figure 1 depicts the observation/recording sheet. After 11 weeks of Baseline, a student held a sign at each crosswalk that read, “Please Thank Drivers with a Wave,” as shown in Figure 2. Following this Intervention, the same prompting sign was placed on a stand at the crosswalks for six weeks. Figure 3 depicts the percentage of pedestrians waving gratitude at the crosswalks per phase. A reliability observer was present for 40% of all observations, and the percent agreement for gratitude exceeded 90%. As shown in Figure 3, the average percentage of pedestrians showing gratitude was 9.3% of 40,510 during 11 weeks of Baseline. During the first Intervention phase, gratitude increased to an average of 27% of 1650 pedestrians. When the prompt was not held by a student, the percentage of gratitude averaged 15% of 14,536 pedestrians. A withdrawal phase showed a return to Baseline, with an average of 5.7% of 49,268 pedestrians showing gratitude.


Contingency Management by Restaurant Diners: A Behavior-Based Gratuity Intervention

(Applied Research)
JACK CONNOR WARDALE (Virginia Tech), Jordan Oliver (Virginia Tech), Samuel Browning (Virginia Tech), Agota Banks (Virginia Tech)

Two research students dined at a restaurant of their choice on two successive occasions, the first time for Baseline, and the second for an Intervention that included placing a sign on the table that read “Your Tip So Far,” as shown in Figure 1. The diners collectively recorded the behaviors of their wait staff on the observation sheet depicted in Figure 2. Every interaction with the wait staff was recorded in consecutive five-minute time intervals. When two diners observed a positive interaction, one diner added a quarter next to the sign. After paying for the meal, a diner asked the primary waitperson for his/her opinion of the gratuity contingency. Ten pairs of diners completed the observation sheet for ten Baseline meals and ten Intervention meals. Figure 3 depicts a time-series graph of the number of positive wait-staff interactions per five-minute interval for one hour, with one function for the Baseline condition and the other for the Incentive/Reward contingency. The average number of positive interactions during Baseline was 8.79 per hour, and 15.0 per hour during the Intervention meals—a 41.4% increase. All of the servers stated appreciation for the Intervention because their gratuity was larger than usual.

Gratuity in the Classroom: One-on-One Appreciation from Student to Professor
(Applied Research)
JORDAN OLIVER (Virginia Tech), Matt Harris (Virginia Tech), Owen Callahan (Virginia Tech), Nolan Barrett (Virginia Tech)
Abstract: At the end of 2018 and continuing into 2019, student researchers chose another person in one or more of their classes and gave him or her a mood survey to complete and the “Actively Caring for People” thank-you card (TYC) depicted in Figure 1 to give to the professor at the end of class. Both the research student and the other person completed the mood survey depicted in Figure 2 at the start of class, and again at the end of class after they had delivered the top half of the TYC to their professor. After completing the post-intervention mood survey, the student answered the two open-ended questions on the bottom half of the TYC to assess the professor’s reaction to receiving the TYC and the student’s personal experience giving the card. A content analysis of these data showed uniformly positive reactions from both the deliverer (student) and the recipient (professor) of the TYC. Figure 3 depicts average mood state of the students (n=74) before and after delivering the TYC to their professors (n=37), and indicates a marked increase in the mood states of sociability, happiness, and motivation but not for calmness and satiation.



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