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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Symposium #424
Procedural Clarifications and Methodological Innovations in Functional Analysis
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Stevens 1 (Lower Level)
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Eileen M. Roscoe (New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Eileen M. Roscoe, Ph.D.
Abstract: Although the utility of functional analysis has been well established, there are particular aspects of this type of assessment that can significantly impact its outcome. The standard procedures in functional analysis clearly establish the antecedents and contingent arrangements that behavior will meet, however, it is not uncommon that some modifications to these standard procedures are necessary to clarify the function of problem behavior. This symposium will present four investigations influenced by specific aspects of experimental functional analysis. The first paper, delivered by Abbey Carreau, will describe how the presence or absence of materials during experimental conditions can produce erroneous conclusions. The second paper, delivered by Pamela Neidert, will discuss a procedure for clarifying inconclusive analyses of elopement using trial-based procedures and assessing latency as the primary dependent measure. The third paper, delivered by Joslyn Cynkus, will describe procedures for assessing and treating functionally related problem behavior by manipulating response hierarchy. Finally, the last paper, delivered by Nathan Call, will discuss a procedure for clarifying undifferentiated analyses that was influenced by behavioral economic theory.
The Effects of Noncontingent Access to Leisure Items during Functional Analyses
ABBEY CARREAU (New England Center for Children), Eileen M. Roscoe (New England Center for Children), Jacquelyn M. MacDonald (New England Center for Children), Lindsay C. Peters (New England Center for Children), David Reiner (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Previous research suggests that including leisure items during the attention condition of a functional analysis (FA) results in false negative outcomes for problem behavior maintained by attention (Ringdahl, Winborn, Andelman, & Kitsukawa, 2002). In the current study, four individuals’ initial FA indicated behavioral maintenance by nonsocial variables (n =3) or by attention (n=1). A duration-based preference assessment identified preferred stimuli for use during subsequent FA conditions. During a subsequent FA, four conditions were compared: Attention with leisure items; attention without leisure items; play with leisure items; and play without leisure items. Following this, two attention conditions (one with high-preference items and one with low-preference items) were compared. Results indicated maintenance by social positive reinforcement for all four individuals when the attention condition did not include leisure items or included low-preference items, whereas results did not indicate maintenance by social positive reinforcement when the attention condition included high-preference leisure items. These findings indicate that inclusion of preferred items during the attention condition resulted in false negative outcomes for attention-maintained behaviors and the absence of preferred items resulted in false positive outcomes for automatic-maintained behaviors. Interobserver agreement data were collected during at least 30% of sessions and averaged over 90%.
A Further Analysis of the Conditions of Elopement
PAMELA L. NEIDERT (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida), Carrie M. Dempsey (University of Florida), Jessica L. Thomason (University of Florida)
Abstract: Elopement (running away from caregivers without permission) and wandering (continuous ambulation away from specifically assigned areas) are problematic behaviors often exhibited by individuals with developmental disabilities. Methodological features of some functional analysis procedures may make interpretation of results difficult. Two subjects participated in the current investigation, which used a trial-based functional analysis procedure, with latency as the response measure, to facilitate discrimination and reduce confounding due to retrieval. Initial multielement results were inconclusive. A second functional analysis, which used a sequential test-control method, suggested that elopement served multiple functions. Finally, function-based treatments were implemented across baselines to reduce elopement. Results are discussed in terms of methodological and applied implications.
Further Analysis of Response Class Hierarchies
JOSLYN N. CYNKUS (Marcus Autism Center), Henry S. Roane (Marcus Autism Center), Wayne W. Fisher (Marcus Autism Center), Michael E. Kelley (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: The term response class refers to a set of responses (e.g., aggression, disruption, screaming) that are maintained by the same reinforcement contingency (e.g., attention). In such relations, the relative probabilities of the responses may be influenced by variables such as response effort and rate or immediacy of reinforcement. As such, response classes are often arranged in a hierarchical manner in which lower probability responses occur primarily when higher probability responses are prevented (e.g., Lalli et al., 1995). Despite this pattern, little research has been conducted that examines the development and maintenance of response class hierarchies. In the current investigation, functional analysis methods were used to demonstrate that the various topographies of destructive behavior formed response classes. First, we demonstrated that topographies of destructive behavior were maintained by positive reinforcement in a predictable hierarchy (i.e., destructive behavior was positively reinforced and occurred in a specific order). Next, treatment analyses were conducted in which an alternative response was introduced into the hierarchy, which resulted in decreases in destructive behavior. These results will be discussed in terms of identifying the variables that influence response class formation.
An Economic Analysis of Functional Reinforcer Value
NATHAN CALL (Louisiana State University), Henry S. Roane (Marcus Autism Center), Ashley C. Glover (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: Several challenges exist when problem behavior is maintained by multiple reinforcers. Identifying which functional reinforcer is more highly valued may help predict which treatments are more likely to be effective, and where limited treatment resources can be best spent. In the current study, functional analysis results identified multiple functional reinforcers for four participants. An economic analysis was then conducted in which two functional reinforcers were made contingent upon task completion in a concurrent operants arrangement. Both reinforcers were available on progressive ratio schedules in which the amount of the task to be completed prior to reinforcement increased each time that reinforcer was selected. Data were examined in terms of the number of tasks completed for each reinforcer prior to the break point (i.e., 5-minutes nonresponding), with higher break points equaling the higher value reinforcer. Treatments based on both functional reinforcers were then compared to evaluate the influence of reinforcer value on treatment efficacy. Interobserver agreement data were collected during greater than 20% of sessions and averaged above 80% for all participants. Results suggest that behavior maintained by lower value reinforcers may be more resistant to treatment than behavior maintained by higher value reinforcers.



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