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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #322
CE Offered: BACB
Behavioral Economics: Implications for Research and Practice
Monday, May 30, 2016
4:00 PM–5:50 PM
Zurich E, Swissotel
Area: TPC/PRA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Robert LaRue (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University )
Discussant: Michael E. Kelley (The Scott Center for Autism Treatment, Florida Institute of Technology)
CE Instructor: Robert LaRue, Ph.D.
Abstract: Through the combination of microeconomics and behavior analysis, behavioral economics has contributed much to the understanding to both choice and contextual behavior. Economic principles have helped shed light on the variables associated with a myriad of problem behaviors, such as obesity, alcoholism, and drug use, to name a few. This symposium will explore issues ranging from economic manipulations of cost and benefit, through delay discounting. Data will be presented to explore both basic and applied questions to expand and extend investigations of choice behavior across a number of different situations and behaviors.
Keyword(s): Behavior economics, Delay discounting

The Impact of Stimulus Preference on Choice During a Delay Discounting Task

HEATHER WHIPPLE (University of Southern Mississippi), James Moore (University of Southern Mississippi), Keith Radley III (University of Southern Mississippi), Evan Dart (University of Southern Mississippi)

Delay Discounting refers to a pattern of responding in which smaller, less beneficial stimuli that are immediately available are chosen over larger, more beneficial stimuli that are available after a progressively longer delay. This constitutes a behavior analytic account of impulsivity, thus allowing data-based evaluations of the variables that influence choice between immediately-available and delayed stimuli. Most research studying this phenomenon has employed hypothetical choices in which the subjects neither experience their actual choice nor any associated delays. In addition to needed research on real choices, other variables, such as the preference level of the stimuli included in the task warrant careful evaluation. In the current paper, a procedure combining the methods of Green et al. (1997) and Fisher et al. (1993) were used to isolate the impact of stimulus preference. The effects of stimulus preference were evaluated with four subjects ranging in age and presenting diagnosis (no diagnosis, ADHD, and ASD). Results suggest that the level of stimulus preference of items included in a real discounting task significantly impact choice of delayed over immediately-available stimuli. Discussion will also include the variety of subject behaviors observed during progressively longer delays.


The Use of Economic Principles to Increase Physical Activity in Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder

ETHAN EISDORFER (Rutgers University), Christopher Manente (Rutgers University), Robert LaRue (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University ), James Maraventano (Rutgers University), Jenna Budge (Rutgers University), Erica Dashow (Douglass Developmental Disabilites Center, Rutgers University), Edina Bekesi (Rutgers University), Efrat Kemp (Rutgers University)

The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent decades. The empirical literature has suggested that the increase in obesity is even more pronounced in individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). A recent study suggested that 30.4% of individuals with ASD meet the criteria for being obese (Curtin, Anderson, Must, & Bandini, 2010). Individuals who are obese are at an increased risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The failure to fade the use of edible reinforcers and the inherent communication deficits associated with ASD, complicate weight management and symptom reporting in this population even further. The purpose of the current investigation is to use the principles of behavioral economics to alter physical activity choices and meal selection for individuals with ASD. Specifically, we intend to identify high/low calorie preferred lunches as well as strenuous/non-strenuous exercises for each of the participants. The economic manipulations would involve making strenuous exercises pay more than exercises that are less strenuous. Meals with high caloric content would then cost more than healthier, low-calorie alternatives. The outcome of the protocol would be to have participants engage in more strenuous exercise and make more sensible choices regarding meals.


The Use of Contingency Contracting to Reduce Binge Eating Behavior

EMILY NESS (University of Southern Mississippi), James Moore (University of Southern Mississippi)

Binge eating behaviors are prevalent across a diverse population and associated with a number of problems, including obesity, diabetes, and depression, to name a few (Hoek & Van Hoeken, 2003). One associated feature of binge eating behaviors appears to be the discounting of larger, more beneficial rewards (such as those associated with exercise and healthy eating) in favor of more detrimental stimuli, such as high caloric foods. In the current paper, the efficacy of a two-level contingency contract was evaluated in controlling the binge eating behavior of three morbidly obese subjects. A multiple baseline design was used, with data suggesting that the contract helped control binge eating behavior, with an associated significant loss in weight.


An Evaluation of the Effects of Signaled Delays on Temporal Discounting in Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders

MIKALA HANSON (Rutgers University), Robert LaRue (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University ), Erica Dashow (Douglass Developmental Disabilites Center, Rutgers University), Robert W. Isenhower (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Ethan Eisdorfer (Rutgers University), Rachel Davis (Rutgers University)

Impulsivity is a common concern in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). While not a defining characteristic of ASDs, the presence of impulsivity can be pervasive and can dramatically affect the intervention process. Temporal discounting refers to the decrease in the present value of reinforcers as a function of the delay of their receipt. In other words, the value of reinforcers often decreases as the length of time one has to wait for them increases. Researchers have outlined some procedures for evaluating delay discounting in human populations. However, much of this research is limited to hypothetical choices with typically developing populations. The purpose of the current investigation was the employ delay discounting procedures with individuals with ASDs. In the investigation, participants were given choices between an impulsive choice (a sooner smaller amount of reinforcement) and a self-controlled choice (accepting a delayed, larger amount of reinforcement). Indifference points (the point at which an individual switches from the smaller-sooner to larger-later reinforcement) were plotted. We evaluated the effectiveness of a signaled delay on the ability of participants to wait for the larger delayed rewards using a visual timer application. The preliminary results suggest that using delay discounting procedures may inform treatment development for this clinical population.




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