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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #49
CE Offered: BACB
Renegades of Choice: Assessing and Changing Preference in Less-Studied Contexts
Saturday, May 25, 2024
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 204 C
Area: EAB/PCH; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Camilo Hurtado-Parrado (Southern Illinois University)
Discussant: Erich K. Grommet (The Arc of Central Alabama)
CE Instructor: Erich K. Grommet, Ph.D.

Impulsive behavior is the preference of a smaller sooner (SS) reinforcer over a larger later (LL) reinforcer; the opposite is self-control behavior. Despite major advances in our understanding of factors that influence impulsive preference (e.g., fading, framing, and priming procedures to reduce delay discounting), there is a need to expand the assessment of relevant variables and procedures that affect impulsive choice to less studied contexts. The first presentation will discuss what the author calls a “peculiar” relationship between social distance and affection. Data from studies with college students that found a negative correlation between an affection rating and the positions in a social distance rank are presented. The second presentation discusses the findings of a systematic replication of Berry et al. (2014). Researchers tested if increasing observing responses to images of natural or built environments via a matching-to-sample task could further increase or attenuate the effects on monetary delay discounting. The third presentation discusses the findings of a study that tested a relationship between recently developed behavioral measures of academic procrastination (latency to turn assignments and to start working on assignments and time-to-deadline in hours) and performance during an academic discounting task (replication of Olsen et al., 2018). A fourth presentation discusses data on the relationship between behavioral patterns during an autoshaping procedure (sign-tracking, goal-tracking or indifference), and patterns of delay-discounting.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): autoshaping, delay discounting, procrastination, self-control
Target Audience:

Audience should be familiar with the behavior analytic approach to self-control and impulsive behavior, procrastination, delay discounting, and social discounting.

Learning Objectives: (1) Differentiate self-control and impulsive behavior, and the experimental methodologies implemented in behavior analysis to study them. (2) Define different forms of discounting and the methodological approaches to measure them. (3) Define negative values and asymmetries in discounting. (4) Define procrastination from a behavior analytic perspective, focusing on choice behavior. (5) Define autoshaping, and the typical behavioral outcomes, namely sign-tracking and goal-tracking.

Social Distance and Affection: A Peculiar Correlation

ALVARO A. CLAVIJO ALVAREZ (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)

Social distance has been considered an intangible quality of the relationship between an individual performing an altruistic act and possible recipients. As with the other varieties of discounting, namely delay and probabilistic, as the social distance increases, the amount of a commodity the individual is willing to forgo decreases hyperbolically. Though the physical concept of distance is a ratio measure with a zero point and values that increase infinitely in the negative and positive domains as occurs with delay, social distance is an ordinal measure of a multidimensional phenomenon. Affection is one of those dimensions. This presentation shows data from two studies that evaluated the correlation between a vague affection rating and the positions in a social distance rank. The correlation was negative. Furthermore, participants rated affection hyperbolically, as if they would have been forgoing money, and some participants gave negative ratings to distant people. As the social distance task requires that individuals put neutral people at the farther extreme, such as “an acquaintance or someone that they barely recognize,” negative affection ratings indicate that some participants might have been putting people they dislike at the farther extreme, which has implications for the social discounting research. It is also worth examining the role of people the individuals dislike in the social discounting research.


Effects of Matching Images of Built and Natural Environments on Delay Discounting: A Systematic Replication of Berry et al. (2014)

PABLO ANDRES LEDESMA CASTRO (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Julian Cifuentes (Southern Illinois University), Ellee Fillmore (Southern Illinois University), FangLei Gao (Southern Illinois University), Camilo Hurtado-Parrado (Southern Illinois University)

Berry et al. (2014, 2015, 2019) found that exposure to images of natural environments reduced impulsive choice during a monetary delay discounting task, as compared to exposure to images of built environments or geometric figures. Berry et al. proposed that attention might be one of the processes responsible for such effect. We tested this hypothesis in a systematic replication of Berry et al.’s (2014) procedure. College students were exposed to a matching-to-sample task aimed at increasing their observing responses to natural and built environments throughout the delay discounting task. Matching was expected to increase the effects reported by Berry et al. As predicted, participants who matched images of built environments (matching built) displayed steeper discount rates as compared to the equivalent non-matching group (replica Berry et al. built). Conversely, matching images of nature did not produce the expected further attenuation of discounting rate. Furthermore, the rate of discounting of participants exposed to a condition that closely replicated Berry et al.’s exposure to images of nature (no matching) was considerably higher, as compared to that of their participants. Lastly, participants’ self-reports regarding the time they spent in natural and built environments weeks before the experiment took place did not predict discounting rate. It is unclear why only matching images of built environments influenced discounting rates. Previous research has shown that aversive contexts increase impulsive choice (Flora et al. 1992, 2003; Hurtado-Parrado et al., 2023). It is possible that matching images during the built condition was more difficult than in the nature condition, and thus participants failed more often to find the correct comparison stimulus. This could have resulted in higher discounting rates. Future research should control correct matching responses to test this interpretation. Lastly, the lack of reproduction of some of Berry et al.’s findings adds to analogous reports from another laboratory (Johnson et al., 2017, 2018, 2019). More research is still needed to understand the mechanisms responsible for the effects of visual stimulation related to natural or built environments on impulsive choice.


Does Performance During an Academic Discounting Task Predict Behavioral Measures of Procrastination? A Systematic Replication of Olsen et al. (2018)

CONNOR EYRE (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Julian Cifuentes (Southern Illinois University), Camilo Hurtado-Parrado (Southern Illinois University)

Most of the research on academic procrastination and its impact on educational outcomes implements indirect measures (questionnaires or self-reports) with conceptual and methodological approaches not entirely cohesive with a behavior analytic approach. The present study aimed to contribute to this gap by testing the relationship between performance in a systematic replication of the academic discounting task (ADT) designed by Olsen et al. (2018) and three different behavioral measures of academic procrastination designed in our lab: (a) latency to turn assignments in hours (LTA), (b) latency of starting to work on assignments in hours (LWA), and (c) time-to-deadline of submitting assignments in hours (TTD). An association between TTD and ADT k values, as well as an association between the three behavioral measures was found. Also, a significant difference in ADT k values between students who reported being employed versus unemployed students was observed. Lastly, a positive association between TTD and ADT k values, and a negative association between TTD and ADT AUC values was found; namely, high rates of discounting during the ADT predicted less postponement of assignment submission. These findings altogether overall provide additional support for the validity of the ADT as a measure of hyperbolic discounting of academic outcomes and the relevance of the three behavioral measures of academic procrastination. However, the somewhat counterintuitive finding that participants who submitted their assignments earlier displayed higher rates of academic discounting during the ADT do not support Olsen et al.’s prediction that delayed academic rewards are the key contributor to student procrastination. Alternatively, it seems that more research is needed to explore the role of aversive factors in procrastination (e.g., effort required to complete the assignment and/or difficulty of the assignment or probability that the hypothetical assignment would produce the related reinforcers, such as a good grade). The ADT shows great potential to that aim via adapting it to be more in line with the notion that academic procrastination entails choosing an immediate appetitive activity and the delay/avoidance of an aversive outcome (i.e., impulsive option), over a more valuable but also delayed reinforcer (i.e., self-controlled option; Zentall, 2021).


Behavioral Patterns of Sign-Trackers and Goal-Trackers in a Delay Discounting Task

JULIAN CIFUENTES (Southern Illinois University), Camilo Hurtado-Parrado (Southern Illinois University)

Autoshaping procedures in rats typically produce sign-tracking (e.g., lever pressing) and goal-tracking (e.g., nose poking in the feeder) responses. Individual differences in those responses predict addiction-like behaviors. It has been suggested that sign-tracking responses are initially conditioned responses, which later become controlled by operant-reinforcement contingencies. Previous studies have shown that rats with predominant sign-tracking responding show steeper delay discounting than non-sign trackers; however, it is unclear if the same behavioral mechanisms are involved in sign-tracking and impulsive performance during a delay discounting task. The present study explored the behavioral patterns of rats during an autoshaping procedure and a delay discounting task. Results show three distinct patterns of behaviors during autoshaping: (a) sign-trackers predominantly lever-pressed towards the end of the trial, (b) goal-trackers’ predominantly nose-poked towards the end of the trial, and (c) indifferent rats (i.e., no clear preference goal- or sign-tracking) nose-poked and lever-pressed throughout the trial. Response allocation in autoshaping for sign-trackers and goal-trackers resembles fixed-interval schedule performance, were the probability of responding increases near the time of reinforcer availability. During the delay-discounting task, goal-trackers overall had higher preference for delayed reinforcers than sign-trackers and indifferent rats. The fact that behavioral patterns during autoshaping differentiate responding during the delay discounting task suggests that similar behavioral mechanisms might be responsible for individual differences across these tasks.




Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh