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.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

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Symposium #27
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Recent Advances on Preference Assessment and Determinants of Choice
Saturday, May 23, 2009
1:00 PM–2:20 PM
North 120 A
Area: DDA/EAB; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: April S. Worsdell (May Institute)
CE Instructor: kelly Ferris, M.Ed.
Abstract: A wide variety of methods have been developed for identifying individual preferences for children and clinical populations that otherwise have difficulty in expressing meaningful preferences. These methods have correspondingly spawned an increasing applied literature on the factors that contribute to relative preferences and relative response allocation. The present series of studies extends both of these literatures in individuals with developmental disabilities and pre-school aged children. Two presentations offer refinements and adaptations of existing preference assessment methodologies towards: 1) balancing expediency and efficacy in the process of identifying effective reinforcers and, 2) comparing procedures for identifying negative reinforcers. A third presentation employs behavioral economic analysis to gauge the ability of several preference assessment formats to predict reinforcer value in the face of increasing response requirements. The final presentation adopts established reinforcer assessment methods to raise interesting questions about the relative contributions of response effort and reinforcer delay in contributing to children’s preferences for varying reinforcement arrangements. Collectively, the studies are discussed in terms of their implications for arranging optimal therapeutic and educational environments.
Evaluation of a Progressive Model for Identifying Preferred Stimuli with Children Diagnosed with Developmental Disabilities
AMANDA KARSTEN (Western New England College), James E. Carr (Auburn University), Tracy L. Lepper (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Preference assessments for individuals with disabilities differ along many dimensions, including time requirements for implementation and probability of identifying a hierarchy of preferred stimuli. Some methods of assessment are also more conducive to use with individuals who exhibit problem behavior or certain prerequisite skills. Inaccurate results and loss of valuable treatment time are among the risks associated with selecting ineffective or unnecessarily lengthy procedures. The purpose of the current investigation was to evaluate a progressive model for conducting preference assessments which incorporates many of the aforementioned considerations. Concurrent-operant reinforcer evaluations were used to verify assessment findings. Based on 17 participants completed to date, the majority (i.e., 76% of all participants) progressed to reinforcer evaluation following the initial multiple-stimulus without replacement (MSWO) assessment. The free-operant method was the second most commonly implemented approach (i.e., 18% of all participants). Subsequent reinforcer evaluations confirmed assessment findings in all but two cases. Interobserver agreement and procedural integrity data were collected for a minimum of 33% of assessment trials per participant and averaged at least 90%, respectively. Results from the investigation will be discussed in terms of the utility of this particular model and possibilities for the application of alternative algorithms to behavior analytic technologies.
A Comparison of Methods for Assessing Preference for Negative Reinforcers
ROBERT R. PABICO (Marcus Autism Center and Children’s Healthcare of), Nathan A. Call (Marcus Autism Center and Emory University School of Medicine)
Abstract: In a recent study, (Call, Pabico, & Lomas, in press) potential negative reinforcers were identified for inclusion in functional analyses using average latency to the first instance of problem behavior. While this methodology shows promise for use in the assessment of problem behavior, it may be worthwhile to identify alternative methods for assessing preference for negative reinforcers. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate a paired stimulus methodology for evaluating preferences for potential negative reinforcers adapted from the preference assessment method described by Fisher et al. (1992). This methodology was compared and contrasted with that described by Call et al. in terms of results, as well as the relative advantages and disadvantages of the two methods. Interobserver agreement data were collected for at least 20% of sessions and always exceeded 80% agreement.
Demand Curve Validation of Preference Assessment Predictions
DEREK D. REED (The May Institute), Jennifer Dawn Magnuson (The May Institute), Stefanie Fillers (May Institute), Shawn Vieira (May Institute), Hanna C. Rue (The May Institute), James K. Luiselli (The May Institute)
Abstract: This study examined the degree to which three formal preference assessments (i.e., paired-stimulus, multiple-stimulus without replacement, and a free-operant procedure) successfully identified reinforcers from six edibles in a subsequent reinforcement assessment. Across all three preference assessment types, accuracy in the identification of the top three reinforcers was 67%. A subsequent demand curve analysis was conducted using the entire hierarchy of low-, moderate-, and high-preferred edibles. Results are discussed with regards to the efficiency of preference assessments and the utility of progressive-ratio schedules in quickly identifying efficacious rewards.
A Systematic Evaluation of Response Effort and Reinforcer Delay on Choice Responding
AMY POLICK (Auburn University), James M. Johnston (Auburn University)
Abstract: A number of studies have investigated the effects of manipulating the physical effort required for an individual to emit a response. This research overwhelmingly shows that as force requirements increase, response rates decrease (Friman & Poling, 1995). However, the literature does not clarify the variables underlying the changes in responding after effort is applied. It is not clear whether increasing effort serves as a form of punishment or whether it merely delays access to reinforcement (i.e. effortful responses take longer to complete). We investigated the relations between physical effort and reinforcer delay and their effects on choice responding using a concurrent matching to sample task with three preschool-aged children. Results of the study showed that participants exhibited a stronger preference for low effort tasks when paired with high effort ones (M=96% response allocation) than they did for tasks resulting in immediate reinforcement versus a delay of 30 s (M=71%). The results extend the current research on response effort and reinforcer delay and provide a novel procedure for evaluating preference in a choice context.



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