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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #230
CE Offered: BACB
Reducing Maladaptive Behavior During Transitions
Sunday, May 25, 2014
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
W175c (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Claire C. St. Peter (West Virginia University)
Discussant: Adam Brewer (Texas Tech University)
CE Instructor: Claire C. St. Peter, Ph.D.

Transitions between relatively rich and relatively lean reinforcement situations may evoke maladaptive behavior. However, the mechanisms behind (and therefore best interventions to reduce) maladaptive behavior evoked by rich-to-lean transitions remain largely unknown. Additionally, there are disparities between the basic and applied literatures that remain unresolved. The studies in this symposium explore effects of modified reinforcement schedules and signaled activities on maladaptive behavior evoked by transitions. The studies address issues of clinical significance in more highly controlled contexts with human or nonhuman subjects. All studies were able to effectively identify environmental variables, such as the reinforcement rate, reinforcement distribution, structure of the signal, or presence of the signal, that reduced maladaptive behavior evoked during transitions.

Keyword(s): negative-incentive shifts, problem behavior, transitions, translational
The Analysis and Treatment of Problem Behavior Related to Transitions from Rich to Lean Reinforcement
JOSHUA JESSEL (Western New England University), Gregory P. Hanley (Western New England University), Mahshid Ghaemmaghami (Western New England University)
Abstract: There is little correspondence between the basic and applied research literatures regarding the concept of transitions. The experimental analysis of transitions with nonhuman animals considers a transition to be an unavoidable change in signaled reinforcement schedules resulting in a pause unique to switches from rich to lean schedules of reinforcement. Pausing is therefore said to be evoked by the aversive qualities engendered by the contrast in the changing reinforcement schedules. By contrast, transitions are usually discussed in applied research as physical changes in location irrespective of previous or upcoming schedules. We attempted to translate the basic framing of transitions to behaviors and contexts of social significance (Study 1), create an applied model for the investigation of problem behavior related to transitions (Study 2), and evaluate a possible treatment for the problem behavior evoked during rich-to-lean transitions (Study 3). Problem behavior was more readily observed during transitions from rich-to-lean components across both qualitative and quantitative differences in reinforcement. The treatment of unsignaled probabilistic rich-reinforcement presented in the lean component resulted in a decrease of problem behavior for both participants.
Things Just Got Worse! Does it Matter Now if They Get Much Better Later?
CHAD M. GALUSKA (College of Charleston), Robert A. Sauer (Auburn University)
Abstract: Negative incentive shifts in reinforcement context disrupt operant responding and may underlie transition-induced problem behavior in humans. In three experiments, we determined if arranging continuous reinforcement (CRF) at the end of daily sessions attenuated this disruption in rats. A multiple fixed-ratio (FR) FR schedule with alternating components identical in terms of response requirement (e.g., FR 100) but differing in terms of reinforcer magnitude (1 and 4 pellets) was arranged. After demonstrating that the transition from a just-received large reinforcer to a signaled upcoming small reinforcer produced extended pausing, CRF was introduced upon the completion of the final ratio in the session; each lever press produced one pellet for a period of 50 pellet deliveries. CRF drastically reduced within-session pausing during negative incentive shifts when arranged on the lever previously associated with the small - but not the large - component of the multiple schedule. These effects were long-lasting, persisting for several months after CRF was discontinued. In a second experiment, response-independent reinforcer deliveries at session offset exacerbated within-session pausing. A third experiment demonstrated that rats first exposed to the effective CRF procedure were inoculated to the disruptive effects of negative incentive shifts; these rats never developed extended pausing in these transitions. Together, these results suggest that it is the strengthening of the response-reinforcer relation and not the future improved reinforcement context that is responsible for drastically reducing - or preventing altogether - the behavioral disruption engendered by negative incentive shifts.

The Effects of Task-related and Arbitrary Signaling on Aberrant Behavior During Transitions

KATIE HINE (The University of Kansas), Dean C. Williams (The University of Kansas)

Transitions from one activity to another have been associated with increases in aberrant behavior in persons with intellectual disabilities (IDD). Williams, Saunders, & Perone (2011) demonstrated that for persons with IDD transitions from a rich to lean schedule of reinforcement were consistently associated with higher rates of aberrant behavior. Decreases in aberrant behavior during difficult transitions have been reported when changes in activity are signaled, often with a picture schedule. The current study further investigates the effects of signals on aberrant behavior during transitions for a representative adult with IDD (PB). The signals used were either photographs of materials present in an activity (task related), or photographs of common objects not present in an activity (arbitrary). Sessions consisted of 8 transitions, each starting with a 30-sec interval during which the signal was presented, discussed, and posted on a bulletin board, followed by 2-minutes of engagement in the activity. The rate of aberrant behavior decreased when transitions were signaled regardless of whether the signal was task-related or arbitrary. These results suggest that the time associated with signal presentation rather than the informative nature of the signal affected the rate of aberrant behavior during transitions.

Activity Engagement and Challenging Behavior during Rich-to-Lean Transitions
APRAL FOREMAN (West Virginia University), Claire C. St. Peter (West Virginia University), Michael Kranak (West Virginia University), Katelynn Miller (West Virginia University)
Abstract: The discrepancies between basic and applied research on how signals affect transitions warrants further investigation. The current study evaluated influences of signaled transitions between activities on pausing, activity engagement, and challenging behavior of three elementary-aged children who engaged in chronic, severe challenging behavior. A preference assessment was conducted with each child to identify one high-preferred (“rich”) activity and one low-preferred (“lean”) activity. The activities alternated randomly, creating four transition types: rich-to-lean, lean-to-lean, lean-to-rich, and rich-to-rich. We used an ABA reversal design to evaluate behavior during transitions when those transitions were signaled with only a visual timer (A) or a visual timer plus a picture schedule (B). Pausing, percentage of time spent engaged, and rates of challenging behavior (e.g., disruption) were the dependent measures. Rates of challenging behavior were differentiated across transition types, with rich-to-lean transitions resulting in more problem behavior than the other transition types for some children. Rates of challenging behavior shifted during the picture-schedule phase. This research begins to bridge the gap between basic and applied transition research and begins answering the questions about the discrepancies within the literature.



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