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 #275
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluating Preference for and Function of Social Interaction
Sunday, May 24, 2020
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 2, Room 207A
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Eliana M. Pizarro (Our Lady of the Lake Children's Health Pediatric Development & Therapy Center)
CE Instructor: Eliana M. Pizarro, Ph.D.

To date, the preference assessment literature has primarily focused on identifying leisure and edible stimuli. There has been relatively little research assessing participants' preference for various types of social interaction. Most recently, Morris and Vollmer (2019) found that social interaction of various types functioned as reinforcers for individuals diagnosed with ASD. This finding is potentially useful given the common characterization of children with ASD as being socially avoidant (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Due to the clinical relevance of identifying reinforcing social interactions and increasing the number and efficacy of such interactions for individuals with ASD, there are several avenues for additional research. Given these implications for further research focused on social interaction, the current symposium will share research 1) evaluating the function of social interaction, 2) evaluating the relationship between schedules of attention and preferences for social interaction, and 3) evaluating the paired-stimulus preference assessment for identifying social reinforcers. Clinical implications and future directions across all studies will be discussed.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students

Learning Objectives: n/a
Evaluating the Function of Social Interaction Using Time Allocation as a Dependent Measure: A Replication and Extension
SAMUEL MORRIS (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)
Abstract: Call, Shillingsburg, Bowen, Reavis, and Findley (2013) described a method of assessing the function of social interactions that used time allocation as a dependent measure. We replicated the method described by Call et al. and evaluated several extensions aimed at increasing the feasibility and efficiency of the assessment and the utility of its results. Seven children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) participated. Social interactions were concluded to be reinforcing for five subjects and aversive for two subjects. Time allocation data for all subjects is presented as well as additional analyses related to patterns of switching toward or away from social contact, and session duration. Implications of this study and its methodology as well as future directions in this line of research will are discussed.
Evaluating the Relationship Between Schedules of Attention and Preferences for Social Interaction in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
BRIANNA LAUREANO (University of Florida), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida)
Abstract: Goldberg et al. (2017) found that the value of playing in a social context was greater than the value of playing in isolation for children with ASD. These results are surprising considering core diagnostic criteria for ASD, which includes various sorts of social deficits. However, the social context in Goldberg et al. (2017) was restricted to interacting with a parent, a special kind of social context that may not represent social contexts at large. We followed up on their study to examine preferences for social vs. isolate play as a function of different kinds of play partner (parent, peer, unfamiliar therapist). We further conducted descriptive analyses to examine correlates of these preferences in terms of the interaction style of the varying play partners. Results thus far reveal that (1) playing with parents was chosen more often that playing with other sorts or partners, and (2) choosing to play in a social context co-varies negatively with the density of unsolicited attention received from the partner (e.g., therapists delivered the highest density of attention, but were chosen least across participants). Subsequent analyses involve systematic manipulation of different sorts of interaction towards isolating determinants of social preferences.
Evaluating the Paired-Stimulus Preference Assessment for Identifying Social Reinforcers for Skill Acquisition
ALISON SCHAEFER (The New England Center for Children), Eileen M. Roscoe (The New England Center for Children)
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to replicate and extend previous research on pictorial-paired-stimulus (PS) preference assessments with social stimuli by assessing the generality of outcomes across multiple reinforcer assessments. A 16-year-old boy with autism and a 14 -year-old boy with autism participated. Following implementation of the PS assessment, highly preferred (HP) and less preferred (LP) attention forms were evaluated in three subsequent reinforcer assessments. First, we conducted a concurrent-operant arrangement in a reversal design, using a simple arbitrary response (i.e., target touch). Responding was allocated to the HP relative to the LP and control options; however, responding was allocated to the LP relative to control when the HP option was no longer available. Second, we conducted a single-operant arrangement in a multiple baseline design, using a more complex arbitrary task (i.e., 8-step LEGO structures). Third, we conducted a single-operant arrangement in a multiple baseline design, using socially-relevant vocational tasks (e.g., document filing) identified by caregivers in an indirect assessment. The HP reinforcers consistently resulted in the quickest acquisition across tasks, supporting the generality of the results of the PS.



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