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.

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50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

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Symposium #90
CE Offered: PSY/BACB/QABA/NASP
Applying Biodiversity Measures to the Analysis of Human Behavior
Saturday, May 25, 2024
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 202 AB
Area: PCH; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Lee Mason (Cook Children's Health Care System)
CE Instructor: Lee Mason, Ph.D.
Abstract:

While the parallels between the science of life and the science of behavior are abundant, each field has developed unique systems for observing and recording data. Whereas ecologists focus on the richness and evenness of taxonomic relations, behavior analysts examine the frequency and duration of functional relations. Yet the scientific underpinnings and similarity in subject matter may allow for metrics to be applied across fields. Here we utilize common measures from the field of community ecology for the analysis of human behavior. Different environments support a range of distinct biological communities, and quantifying such biodiversity provides an understanding of how and why different biological communities are distributed. Ecologists define beta diversity as a measure of the degree of community differentiation in relation to environment gradients. The ratio between gamma and alpha diversities, beta diversity quantifies the effective number of distinct ecological communities within a region. In this symposium, we extend the concept of beta diversity to the field of behavior-analytic intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Across three papers, we show how beta diversity can be used to sample the frequency and variety of destructive behavior, stimulus preference, and verbal behavior. We demonstrate the utility of beta diversity for measuring behavior change over time, and discuss the implications of calculating beta diversity as a measure of efficacy.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): beta diversity, preference assessment, problem behavior, verbal behavior
Target Audience:

Board Certified Behavior Analysts (Doctoral) and researchers who are interested in studying complex behavior-environment interactions. Attendees should have working knowledge of different types of functional analyses and stimulus preference assessments.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Name common measures of biodiversity; (2) Explain how biodiversity measures can be applied to human behavior; and, (3) Describe the advantages and limitations of using biodiversity measure for behavior analysis.
 
Biodiversity Measures of Problem Behavior
MELINDA ROBISON (Cook Children's- Child Study Center)
Abstract: Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder demonstrate challenging behavior, for which reinforcement is either automatic or socially mediated. In lieu of a more socially acceptable, functionally equivalent alternative, individuals with autism may engage in a broad range of functionally and topographically diverse problem behavior. In this presentation, we introduce beta diversity as a measure of the complex interaction between the form and function, and illustrate how beta diversity may be used to quantify the diversity of an individual’s challenging behavior repertoire. As in ecology, beta diversity is useful to behavior analysts as a measure of stability. It can be used to quantify environmental changes and identify local contributions of specific environmental influences to the overall repertoire of challenging behavior. Beta diversity of problem behavior can also be used to evaluate the impact of a behavior reduction program. Using archival data from comprehensive and focused behavior-analytic intervention programs for children with autism, we demonstrate the utility of beta diversity as a measure of challenging behavior.
 
Biodiversity Measures of Stimulus Preference
GABRIEL LUKE ARMSHAW (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities are a core deficit of autism spectrum disorder. Stimulus overselectivity has been observed across all exteroceptors, and may result in a lack of sufficient reinforcers to maintain socially valid skills. For example, stereotypic behavior may prohibit the development of other play skills, and impedes the opportunity for social interactions with other children. Yet heretofore we have not had a rigorous methodology for quantifying circumscribed behavior. In this presentation, we introduce beta diversity as a measure of restricted interests, and demonstrate how beta diversity may be used to quantify the diversity of an individual’s stimulus preference. As in ecology, beta diversity is useful to behavior analysts as a measure of resistance to extinction and other disturbances. It can be used to quantify environmental changes, and identify local contributions of specific environmental influences to the overall array of preferred stimuli. Beta diversity of stimulus preference can also be used to evaluate the impact of interventions designed to increase functional play. Using archival data from comprehensive and focused behavior-analytic intervention programs for children with autism, we demonstrate the utility of beta diversity as a measure of stimulus preference.
 
Biodiversity Measures of Verbal Behavior
MARIA JOSE OTERO (Child Study Center, Cook Children's Hospital, University of North Texas)
Abstract: Autism spectrum disorder has been described as a contingency-shaped disorder of verbal behavior. Many individuals with autism exhibit a disproportionate speaking repertoire in which certain operants (e.g., echoic and tact) are significantly stronger than others (e.g., mand and intraverbal). The ability to identify different environmental variables that control the verbal repertoire of a speaker with autism lends itself to measurements of biodiversity. In this presentation, we introduce beta diversity as a measure of verbal behavior, and show how beta diversity may be used to quantify the diversity of an individual’s verbal repertoire. As in ecology, beta diversity is useful to behavior analysts as a measure of productivity. It can be used to quantify environmental changes and identify local contributions of specific environmental influences to the verbal repertoire. Beta diversity of verbal behavior can also be used to evaluate the impact of interventions designed to increase language skills. Using archival data from comprehensive and focused behavior-analytic intervention programs for children with autism, we demonstrate the utility of beta diversity as a measure of verbal behavior.
 

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