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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #239
Applications of Behavioral Economics to Understand Wellness, Health, and Safety Decision Making
Sunday, May 28, 2023
4:00 PM–5:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 2B
Area: CSS/OBM; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Oliver Wirth (CDC/NIOSH)
Discussant: Mikhail Koffarnus (University of Kentucky College of Medicine)

Understanding factors that influence safety-related decisions can help us assess needs, identify barriers, specify targets, and improve measurements for interventions. Research methods from behavioral economics have been used to better understand a range of socially significant, health-related decisions associated with substance use, sex, medical treatment, suicide, and more. Recently, behavioral economic methods have been extended to additional domains, such as safety-related decisions of drivers and workers. A fundamental behavioral economic principle known as discounting describes a decrease in the subjective value of some outcome (e.g., health or money) as a function of an increase of some other parameter (e.g., time or probability). This symposium presents four applications of discounting to decisions concerning (1) seeking mental health services, (2) securing personal information, (3) texting while driving, and (4) implementing a safety solution in the workplace. Each of these studies contributes to our better understanding of behavioral economic principles that underly decision making with the goal of informing interventions that promote healthier and safer choices.

Instruction Level: Basic
Discounting as a Tool to Understand the Desirability of Mental Health Services
JONATHAN E. FRIEDEL (Georgia Southern University), Sofia Perez (Georgia Southern University), KATILYN MARIE ASHLEY TREEM (Georgia Southern University), Shakeia Salem (Georgia Southern University), Maya Poole (Georgia Southern University), Bekah Estevez (Georgia Southern University), Brooke Smith (University of Nevada Reno Counseling Services)
Abstract: Minoritized people are less likely to obtain mental health services than non-minoritized people. One reason minoritized people are less likely to obtain mental health services is because of a perception that therapists will not “be like them” and will be unable to understand their lived experience. There are increasing calls and demands for mental health providers to be trained in cultural competence. Cultural competence refers to mental health providers learning about other cultures, so they are informed and respectful of other beliefs, values, and traditions in that culture. This presentation will cover several discounting studies that have been completed as an ersatz needs assessment for minoritized people in relation to their desires culturally competent therapy. The findings overwhelmingly support the notion that minoritized people desire culturally competent therapy. If forced to choose, participants would rather have less effective culturally competent therapy than more effective non-competent therapy. Ethical review was obtained.

Relationship Between Social Discounting and Paying to Protect Personal Information

PAUL ROMANOWICH (Gonzaga University), Jacob Battaglia (Gonzaga University)

Recent social discounting studies have shown that individuals share less personal information as social distances between a person and the individual they can share with increases. However, personal information is not a tangible commodity like money that can be easily divided between individuals. That is, you still have possession of all of your personal information, even if you share it with another person. Thus, the economic utility (i.e., value) is questionable for personal information as a sharable commodity. One way to validate personal information as a sharable commodity is to ask how much an individual would pay to protect different types of personal information, and determine whether the amount they were willing to pay was inversely related to how willing they were to share that type of personal information. The current study tested this by asking participants to complete a social discounting for personal information task and an economic demand task asking about how much they would be willing to pay to protect different types of personal information. The results showed that there was an inverse relationship between sharing during the social discounting task and the economic demand task. That is, participants’ willingness to pay to protect their financial information (Figure 1) and willingness to share a certain type of personal information were inversely related (i.e., pay less to protect health information, but share more). These results help to validate personal information as a sharable commodity with value for individuals.

Role of Response Inhibition and Delay Discounting in the Discrepancy Between Perceived Risk and Frequency of Texting While Driving: A Cluster Analysis
YUSUKE HAYASHI (Pennsylvania State University, Hazleton), Jonathan E. Friedel (Georgia Southern University), Anne Foreman (CDC/NIOSH), Oliver Wirth (CDC/NIOSH)
Abstract: The goal of the present study was to investigate the potential mechanism underlying the discrepancy between perceived risk and frequency of texting while driving (TWD) in young drivers. A sample of 170 college students participated in this study. Using a hierarchical cluster analysis, an analytic technique to categorize cases based on their similarities across selected variables, we first identified the following three distinct subgroups: (a) drivers who perceive TWD as risky but frequently engage in TWD, (b) drivers who perceive TWD as risky and infrequently engage in TWD, and (c) drivers who perceive TWD as not so risky and frequently engage in TWD. For each gender, the subgroups were then compared on the extent to which they differed in response inhibition (as measured by a self-report scale) and delay discounting of hypothetical monetary reinforcers. The results showed that the subgroup of male, but not female, drivers who perceive TWD as risky but frequently engage in TWD showed significantly higher levels of response inhibition, but not delay discounting, than the other two subgroups. Implications for developing effective and efficient intervention strategies for reducing TWD are discussed.
The Effects of Perceived Risk and Cost on Manager Decisions to Implement a Safety Solution
JONATHAN MARK HOCHMUTH (CDC/NIOSH), Ron Van Houten (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Understanding how managers of industrial workplaces make decisions to allocate resources is critical to improving occupational safety. Discounting methods have been applied to the health and safety decisions of workers but not to leadership. This study presented hypothetical scenarios to investigate the effects of perceived injury probability, injury severity, and cost of a safety solution on the likelihood of manager decisions to implement a safety solution in a manufacturing setting. Two experimental surveys were conducted on Amazon Mechanical Turk, each consisting of 75 participants with the “management” qualification. The first experiment varied percentage of safe behaviors/conditions (injury probability) and cost. The second experiment varied percent safe and cost under three different injury severities (i.e., amputation, strain/sprain, and laceration/puncture). Managers’ likelihood of implementing a safety solution decreased as percent safe and cost increased. Perceived severity of injury had a smaller effect. The results suggest that managers discount occupational safety risks when risks are low, and costs are high. This study provides the first attempt to apply behavioral economic methods to study manager workplace safety decisions. Further extending and refining this application to other workplace safety concerns could better inform interventions with the goal of improving occupational safety.



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