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 #408
How Behavioral Developmental Stage and Value of Reinforcers Interact
Monday, May 26, 2014
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
W181a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: DEV/TPC; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Patrice Marie Miller (Salem State University)
Discussant: Robert A. Miller (none)

Behavior Analysis has concentrated on contingencies of reinforcement and reinforcement value. However, taking behavioral developmental stage of an individual into consideration is also important to bring about behavioral change. Papers that will be presented are centered around the theme of behavioral developmental stage, value of reinforcers or both. It includes studies that show that a) behavioral developmental stage and reinforcement value interact strongly, sometimes behavioral stage changing the value of reinforcers and sometimes reinforcement changing behavioral stage, b) behavioral development stage is domain specific showing synchrony of stage in domain with social reinforcement c) changing the value of food reinforcers as the most of producing long term weight loss and d) contrary to most behavioral analytic accounts, why ignoring elicited crying in behavioral stage 1 increase greatly the chances of many disorders and that attending to crying young infants reinforces their learning that they will be rescued when in distress leading to healthy behavioral development.

Keyword(s): Behavioral Stage, Reinforment Value, Weight Loss

Behavioral Developmental Stage and Value of Reinforcers Strongly Interact with Each Other: an Overview

LUCAS ALEXANDER HALEY COMMONS-MILLER (Dare Institute), Michael Lamport Commons (Harvard Medical School)

Behavior Analysis has concentrated on contingencies of reinforcement and reinforcement value. We present a series of analyses and data showing that behavioral developmental stage and value of reinforcers obtained strongly interact with each other. In some cases, value effects behavioral stage, in others behavioral stage effects value. This is especially important for interventions. For example, only about 20% of persons designated as Autistic are mainstreamed. This may be largely due to ignoring developmental sequences. Prerequisite behaviors have to be acquired first. Otherwise, one starts with too high a behavioral stage behavior for interventions to be successful. Behavioral developmental stage on one hand and amount and value for reinforcement on the other hand interact in at least two ways. First, the stage required for contingencies between one's own behavior and the consequences to be discriminable may exceed the stage of performance of the person. A second way is that stage has an influence on the effective value and amount of events.


Transfer of Order of Hierarchical Complexity within the Social Domain

SAGUN GIRI (Dare Association, Inc.), Michael Lamport Commons (Harvard Medical School), William Joseph Harrigan (Harvard University)

The Order of Hierarchical Complexity (OHC, the apriori analytic difficulty of the items) was measured with two interrelated vignettes, helper-person and empathy instruments within the social domain. 22 participants were recruited through various listservs and the instruments were provided to them through a weblink. The item OHC was shown to predict how good performance was: Empathy, r(20) = 0.850, p < 0.0001; Helper-person, r(20) = 0.948, p < 0.0001; Counselor patient, r(19) = 0.868, p < 0.0001. Domain may be operationally defined by high levels of transfer of previous acquisition. If so, the Rasch person difficulty scores of the participants in the two social domain instruments maybe correlated. The person difficulty scores represent how good a person was at dealing with the difficulty of vignettes in each instrument. A previous study showed a high correlation between how well people did person (Rasch person difficulty scores) on math-science-logic domain instruments, r(23) = 0.98, p < 0.0001. Hence, we expected similar results in the two instruments within the social domain for which we had such data. The analysis showed high correlation, r(7) = 0.967, p < 0.0001. This indicated that participants performed at the same behavioral developmental stage across all instruments of the social domain. Thus, the result implies that order of hierarchical complexity is domain specific.


Professional Opinions on Perceived Hunger Following Different Forms of Bariatric Surgery

WILLIAM JOSEPH HARRIGAN (Harvard University), Michael Lamport Commons (Harvard Medical School)

In behavior analysis, procedures other than deprivation and satiation that alter the power of reinforcement are rarely discussed. Bariatric surgery is the only effective long term weight loss intervention. Here we report the perceived efficacy of bariatric surgery in reducing the reinforcing effects of food. There were 26 bariatric surgery professionals asked to rate on a 1 to 6 scale each of a set of key factors in success or failure of bariatric surgeries. There was wide agreement that the surgeries function by reducing the preference to eat more food. We found that fullness, or the physical restriction of the stomach, is regarded as the most important factor in reducing preference for food, and reduced preference for fat and carbohydrates was a relevant factor in weight-loss. Particular to questions regarding Satiation, Gastric Bypass had M = 4.50, p = 0.000 Gastric Sleeve had similar M = 4.46, p = 0.000 and less effective, Laparoscopic banding had M = 3.63, p = 0.000. Therefore it is a combination of reduced capacity for food, and reduced preference for fat and sugar that were believed to cause the weight loss from bariatric surgery.


A Behavioral Developmental Account of How Early Caregiving Events May Shape Attachment Disorders

PATRICE MARIE MILLER (Salem State University)

Behavior analytic accounts of crying have stressed that responses to crying reinforce the crying behavior. A different possibility is presented based on the facts that crying and other behaviors have different causes and functions at different ages. Specifically, there is a shift from behaviors that are mainly reflexive or classically conditioned at behavioral stage 1 to behaviors that are operantly conditioned at behavioral stage 2. Parental responses therefore should differ accordingly. For example, infant crying from 1 to 3 months of age is mainly elicited by bodily discomfort or just not being able to regulate their own emotional states. Across a wide variety of child rearing contexts, the rate of infant crying increases until about six weeks irrespective of parental behavior. Contrary to the classic operant behavioral account, the peak of crying is significantly higher under conditions of low parental responsiveness. But responding rapidly to the crying of young infants causes them to learn that when distressed, they will be "rescued" and their discomfort will be lessened. Infants who do not learn this, on the other hand, may learn instead that people are not sources to turn to when one is experiencing negative emotions. This may lead to insensitive adults.




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