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.


32nd Annual Convention; Atlanta, GA; 2006

Event Details

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Symposium #433
CE Offered: BACB
Selecting Reinforcers in Applied Settings: Variables that Impact Preference and Reinforcer Assessment Outcomes
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Regency VI
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Richard G. Smith (University of North Texas)
CE Instructor: Richard G. Smith, Ph.D.

A large and growing array of procedures exists for evaluating stimulus preferences and selecting reinforcers for people with developmental disabilities. The presentations in this symposium examine factors that affect the outcomes of preference assessment and reinforcer effectiveness. The effects of variables including the extent of assessment, contingent delivery, noncontingent delivery, restriction, presession exposure to potential motivating operations on stimulus preferences were examined. Also, effects of choice and task difficulty/effort on reinforcer effectiveness were examined. The results of these studies indicate that these variables may alter preferences among stimuli, although some effects appear to be idiosyncratic across participants, and that choice and work requirements may interact to alter the effectiveness of reinforcement. Outcomes of these studies will inform both research and practice for those interested in effective methods for selecting and implementing reinforcement procedures with persons with developmental disabilities.

Examining Variables that Contribute to Fluctuations in Relative Preference: Contingent Delivery, Noncontingent Delivery, and Stimulus Restriction.
MEAGAN GREGORY (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (Johns Hopkins University)
Abstract: To date, a handful of behavior analytic studies have examined general changes in stimulus preferences and reinforcer durability over time for individuals with developmental disabilities. However, none have examined the variables that influence the durability and/or stability of reinforcers. We examined the effects of contingent delivery, noncontingent delivery, and restriction on changes in relative preferences over time. Paired-choice preference assessments were used to determine relative preferences. Four moderately preferred stimuli were selected and randomly assigned to one of four conditions. Two stimuli were presented contingent upon correct responses in an academic task. The first stimulus was delivered on an FR1 schedule and the schedule value for the second stimulus was increased across successive weeks from FR1 to FR2, FR5, and FR10. The third stimulus was delivered noncontingently on a schedule yoked to that used for the first stimulus. The fourth stimulus was restricted entirely. After exposure to these conditions, the preference assessments were repeated. For participants who completed four weeks of the manipulations, the data thus far have shown a slight decrease in preference ranking for the item delivered noncontingently and an increase for the increasing FR item.
Some Effects of Motivating Operations on Assessments of Preference.
TRACY L. KETTERING (Marcus Autism Center), Michael E. Kelley (Marcus Autism Center and Emory University), Wayne W. Fisher (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Munroe-Meyer Institute), Ilana Rappaport (Georgia State University)
Abstract: Previous research on preferences assessments suggest that several methodologies are effective for establishing hierarchies of preferred stimuli. However, results of some studies suggest that preference may shift due to the presences of edible items (i.e., edible items may displace leisure during preference assessments in combined assessments) or other inadvertent motivating operation (MO) manipulations (e.g., Bojak & Carr, 1999; DeLeon, Iwata, & Roscoe, 1997; Gottschalk et al., 2000). However, the effects of access to specific preference assessment items and other general MO manipulations have not been well studied. In the current investigation, specific MOs were manipulated to determine subsequent effects on MSWO preference assessments. MSWO sessions with 4 leisure and 4 edible items were conducted 30 minutes prior to meals, 30 minutes following meals, and 30 minutes following meals that were supplemented with a preference assessment edible item. Results were idiosyncratic across participants and suggested that the consumption of meals functioned as an MO for edible items in the assessment for two participants, while the consumption of preference assessment edible items did not function as an MO for any of the participants. Results are discussed in terms of previous preference assessment research, general implications for preference assessments, and clinical implications.
A Comparison of Brief versus Extended Paired-Choice and Multiple-Stimulus without Replacement Preference Assessment Outcomes.
AMANDA J. MCALLISTER (University of North Texas), Richard G. Smith (University of North Texas), Caroline C. Stevens (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Few studies have systematically evaluated the effects of the extent of assessment on preference assessment outcomes. Typically, studies have used brief procedures to select potential reinforcers for use in intervention. The present study administered a total of 17 food and leisure paired-choice preference assessments and 12 multiple-stimulus without replacement (MSWO) preference assessments to 22 subjects. Results were evaluated to determine the extent to which the results of a brief (i.e., single-session) assessment correspond with those from more extended procedures (i.e., 5-10 sessions). Results indicate stability in rank order across assessments for the most highly preferred stimuli but substantial variability in rank-order among less-preferred stimuli in both the paired-choice and MSWO preference assessments. These outcomes suggest that a brief assessment can be useful when a single, potent reinforcing stimulus is desired, and an extended assessment should be conducted when a larger number of preferred stimuli is needed.
The Effects of Reinforcer Choice on Responding as a Function of Ratio Requirements and Task Difficulty.
KATHARINE GUTSHALL (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (Johns Hopkins University)
Abstract: The effect of choice of reinforcers on response rates has been examined using both concurrent and single-operant analyses. However, results have differed with regard to the extent of added benefit from reinforcer choice. Related areas of research have suggested that increases in work requirements can magnify small differences in relative reinforcer efficacy. The current study thus used a single-operant design to examine choice versus no choice of reinforcers in children with disabilities using various manipulations related to task difficulty or effort. Results thus far reveal that the provision of reinforcer choice did not enhance responding when ratio requirements or task difficulty were increased. However, differences did emerge when reinforce choice vs. no-choice conditions were compared under progressive-ratio schedules. These results are discussed in terms of the potential effects of choice when amount of work is considered and the sensitivity of various preparations to relative reinforcer efficacy.



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