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

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Symposium #235
CE Offered: BACB
Communication in the Workplace: Being Aversive Isn’t Always a Bad Thing… Or Is It?
Sunday, May 26, 2024
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Grand Ballroom Salon CD
Area: OBM; Domain: Translational
Chair: Sharlet D. Rafacz (Western Michigan University)
Discussant: Abigail Blackman (Behavior Science Technology)
CE Instructor: Abigail Blackman, Ph.D.

Communication in the workplace can have multiple functions for behavior. For example, it can serve as an antecedent to prompt appropriate behavior or as a reinforcer that increases correct responding, such as with feedback. Communication may also function as a motivating operation and alter the value of current consequences for behavior. In the workplace, employee preference for different forms of communication can impact efficacy and, in some cases, the wrong communication can result in unintended consequences. While some may assume that employees would avoid corrective feedback, results from the first study in our symposium suggest that not only is corrective feedback more effective, employees actually prefer it to positive feedback. The second study will explore how aversive control in the workplace can backfire. Depending on how critical messages are delivered, they may increase performance, but they may also evoke countercontrol, which is behavior intended to punish the behavior of the individual delivering the aversive statement (e.g., sabotage). Overall, this symposium will discuss how communicating with employees, whether as feedback or other forms of communication, needs to take into consideration preference, efficacy, and potential side-effects.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

The target audience for this symposium are individuals with some background or education in behavior analytic principles and concepts.

Learning Objectives: 1. Describe how positive and corrective feedback influence performance and identify which is preferred by employees 2. Explain how aversive control can result in countercontrol by employees 3. Discuss why it is important to consider preference, efficacy, and side-effects of communication in organizational settings
A Further Investigation Regarding the Efficacy of and Preference for Positive and Corrective Feedback
(Applied Research)
ERIK SWANSON GODINEZ (California State University, Sacramento), Denys Brand (California State University, Sacramento)
Abstract: Although feedback is a widely used intervention, it is unclear what characteristics individuals prefer and what is necessary for feedback to be effective. Simonian and Brand (2022) investigated the efficacy of and preference for positive and corrective feedback and found that corrective feedback was more efficacious and preferred. The purpose of the current study was to systematically extend Simonian and Brand (2022) by addressing the limitations and adding a best treatment phase for two participants. The acquisition phase consisted of participants completing novel arbitrary tasks and the experimenter delivering either positive, corrective, or no feedback. Nine of the 10 participants mastered the task associated with corrective feedback, and one participant mastered the task with no feedback. Next, eight participants completed the preference phase in which they completed a novel task and were provided a choice of either positive or corrective feedback. Half of the participants showed a preference for corrective feedback and the remaining participants had mixed preference. Overall, corrective feedback was more efficacious and more preferred than positive feedback.
Employee Countercontrol: An Investigation of How Individuals in an Organizational Analogue Respond to Aversive Statements
(Basic Research)
ALEXIS BARAJAS (California State University, Fresno), Sharlet D. Rafacz (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: In organizational settings, one avenue for changing behavior is through aversive control. However, the use of aversive control may have negative side effects such as emotional responses or acts of aggression. Countercontrol is one such negative side effect of aversive control and may look like acts of sabotage, desertion, protest, and terrorism. Although countercontrol and its topographies have been discussed conceptually, there are few studies that have investigated this phenomenon empirically. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to evaluate an experimental procedure to evoke countercontrol among participants in an analogue work environment. An ABCD multiple baseline design was used to examine how aversive control affected participant responding on several work tasks. Following a baseline condition, a neutral statement with goal was introduced, before an aversive statement (also with goal) was presented to evoke countercontrol, followed by an apologetic statement to abate countercontrol responding. The results of this study suggest that while the procedure did not evoke countercontrol for most participants, it was successful in illustrating both potential countercontrol and negative reinforcement effects. This methodology then allows for further investigation into how aversive control may have unintended consequences in the workplace.



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