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 #278
CE Offered: BACB
New Developments in Preference and Reinforcer Assessment Research
Monday, May 30, 2016
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
Grand Ballroom CD North, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Ruth DeBar (Caldwell University)
Discussant: Richard B. Graff (New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Richard B. Graff, Ph.D.

Behavior analysts have developed a rich technology to identify reinforcers for individuals with developmental disabilities; the studies in this symposium seek to add to this knowledge base. In Study 1, reinforcer assessments for tangible and social stimuli were conducted with 3 individuals with autism. High-preference tangible items were the most potent reinforcers for all participants, but some individuals responded more to access low-preference social interactions. In Study 2, two participants with autism participated in MSWO assessments under different schedules of reinforcement (CRF, VR2, No access). Preference hierarchies were broadly consistent across reinforcement schedules; the no access condition required the least amount of time to complete. In Study 3, the outcomes of engagement-based assessments with varied access to selected items were compared to MSWO assessments. The engagement-based and MSWO assessments identified the same highest-preferred activity for three of four individuals with autism. In Study 4, 12 individuals with no previous knowledge of preference assessments accurately implemented free operant preference assessments when provided with an antecedent-only self-instructional packet. In all studies, interobserver agreement (IOA) data were collected in at least 30% of sessions, and IOA was above 95%. The results of these studies may help clinicians better identify reinforcers for their clients

Keyword(s): preference assessment, reinforcer assessment

A Comparison of Reinforcer Assessments With Social and Tangible Reinforcers With Individuals With Autism

MEGAN BORLASE (Caldwell Universsity), Tina Sidener (Caldwell University), Danielle Gureghian (Garden Academy), Ruth DeBar (Caldwell University), April N. Kisamore (Caldwell University)

There is a wealth of research on preference assessments, but to date, no studies have been conducted to identify optimal procedures for conducting reinforcer assessments or to determine the most appropriate reinforcer assessment for tangible or social stimuli. This information is important to validate new preference assessments, to evaluate stimuli that are being established as conditioned reinforcers, and to provide evidence that the stimuli being used function as reinforcers. To address the above limitations the current study compared three reinforcer assessments with social and tangible stimuli with three individuals with autism. The items included were identified through paired-stimulus preference assessments. The tangible reinforcer assessments supported the current research as the high-preference items were the most potent reinforcers for all participants. There was more variability with the social reinforcer assessments and the concurrent-operants reinforcer assessment did not support the current research for any of the participants as findings were undifferentiated or showed higher rates of responding for the low-preference interaction than the high-preference interaction. Interobserver agreement data were obtained across 50% of sessions; mean agreement was 99%. Further research is needed to determine the best procedures to use in the reinforcer assessments and the most appropriate procedures based on participant characteristics.

Evaluating the Results of Multiple Stimulus Without Replacement Preference Assessments Using Different Schedules of Reinforcement
ERICA J BAUER (University of Saint Joseph, West Hartford, CT), John D. Molteni (University of Saint Joseph)
Abstract: Preference and reinforcer assessments are central to the development of effective reinforcement-based systems. Two participants with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, ages 9 and 13, participated in three multiple stimulus without replacement (MSWO) preference assessments under different schedules of reinforcement (CRF, VR2, No access). Experimenters used the percentage of stimulus selection to establish preference hierarchies (High-, moderate-, and low-preferred stimuli). Participants engaged in reinforcer assessments under a progressive ratio schedule using a free operant response to evaluate the reinforcing efficacy stimuli selected from each level of the hierarchy. Preference assessment results were broadly consistent across reinforcement schedules with the no access condition requiring the least amount of time to complete. Results of the reinforcer assessment suggest that, for one participant, only one of the two highest ranked stimuli served as an effective reinforcer. For the second participant, both high preference items and one moderate preference item were effective. Interobserver agreement data were collected in at least 30% of sessions for all participants; mean IOA was above 95%. The researchers discuss these outcomes in terms of the efficiency of preference assessments and the correspondence of preference assessment results to reinforcer assessment outcomes.

Comparing Outcomes of Engagement- and Approach-Based Preference Assessments

Nicole Adamo (Caldwell College), Ruth DeBar (Caldwell University), Jason C. Vladescu (Caldwell University), Tina Sidener (Caldwell University), KAITLYN DONOVAN (Caldwell University)

Identifying preferred stimuli may be challenging for those who work with individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Preference assessments have been empirically supported and can generally be categorized as approach-based (e.g., MSWO; multiple-stimulus without replacement) described as presenting stimuli to an individual for brief periods of time and recording approach (i.e., selection) or engagement-based (e.g., SSE; single-stimulus engagement) which measures engagement with a particular item. Few studies have directly compared outcomes produced by engagement-based as compared to approach-based preference assessments. The purpose of the proposed study was to compare the outcomes of a SSE preference assessment across a 30 s, 2 min, 5 min, and a duration based on the typical trade-in time per participant to a MSWO preference assessment across open-and closed-ended activities with four young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Interobserver agreement (IOA) data were collected for 50% of sessions across participants and mean agreement was 99% (range, 97%-100%) across sessions and participants. The SSE assessments indicated that some individuals may be more sensitive to access duration than others. Results from the MSWO assessments and SSE assessments identified the same activity as highest-preferred for three of the four participants.

Training Staff, Parents, and Special Educators to Conduct Free Operant Preference Assessments
SHANNON WARD (New England Center for Children), Richard B. Graff (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Research has suggested that training staff to conduct stimulus preference assessments requires a trainer to provide performance feedback. Although expert-facilitated training is desirable, it is not widely accessible. In this study, the efficacy of an antecedent training tool to implement a free operant preference assessment was evaluated. In Experiment 1, eight newly hired staff members participated. When provided with written instructions alone (the methods section from the published study), accuracy was below criterion levels (90% accuracy) for all participants. When access to enhanced written instructions was provided (i.e., technical jargon was minimized; instructions included pictures, diagrams, and step-by-step examples), 3 of 8 participants accurately implemented the assessment. When the enhanced instructions were modified slightly, accuracy for 4 additional participants increased to criterion levels. In Experiment 2, four parents and special education teachers participated. Accuracy was low for all participants in baseline. When provided with the modified enhanced written instructions, accuracy quickly increased to criterion levels for all participants. Interobserver agreement in both studies was collected in a minimum of 33% of sessions, and was above 96%. Self-instruction packets provide opportunities to disseminate behavior-analytic technology and serve as a training tool that is both accessible and cost effective.



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