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 #532
CE Offered: BACB
Preference and Performance for the Distribution of Reinforcement and Arrangement of Work
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Zurich D, Swissotel
Area: EAB/EDC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Amy Muehlberger (Beacon Services)
Discussant: Robert K. Ross (Beacon ABA Services)
CE Instructor: Robert K. Ross, Ed.D.

Recent research indicates that some students prefer to complete larger work requirements for access to larger magnitude reinforcers (continuous arrangement) rather than completing several smaller work-reinforcer units (discontinuous arrangement). For instance, some participants prefer to complete 20 consecutive math problems for 10 minutes of continuous access to reinforcement, rather than completing 2 problems followed by 1 minutes of reinforcement, repeated 10 times. This outcome has been demonstrated with older and verbally competent participants. Thus far, the published research literature has yet to examine the effects of these work-reinforcer arrangements on preference and performance with younger participants and participants with limited communication skills. Therefore, the studies that will be discussed in this symposium will present data on the effects of work-reinforcer arrangement on preference and performance with younger participants. The outcome of one study demonstrated that younger children with limited verbal repertoires preferred the continuous arrangement, whereas the second study found that some younger children preferred the discontinuous arrangements and that reinforcer magnitude manipulations affected preference. Variables affecting preference and performance will be discussed as well as educational implications of this line of research.

Keyword(s): concurrent chains, concurrent operants, preference, work-reinforcer arrangements
Effects of Reinforcement Manipulation on Selection of Work Schedules
AMY MUEHLBERGER (Beacon Services), John Claude Ward-Horner (Evergreen Center), Robert K. Ross (Beacon ABA Services)
Abstract: Effective reinforcement delivery is critical to the success of all instruction and has been much studied. However, a clearer understanding of individual specific variables influencing reinforcement efficacy and teaching efficiency is essential to maximizing learning. Knowing an individual’s preference for a specific distribution of reinforcement during discrete trial training would be useful information when designing programming for students, particularly since data has suggested that learner choice is correlated with better learning outcomes. Existing literature that has reviewed the topic of concurrent-operants on the distribution of and efficacy of reinforcement, as in Fienup, Ahlers and Pace, 2011 and DeLeon, Iwata, Goh, & Worsdell, 1997) suggest that continuous work schedules with reinforcement provided at the end was preferred over schedules that interspersed preferred activities. Previous research has shown this with older students (Ward-Horner, Pittenger, Pace and Fienup (2014). It is not known if this finding would be consistent with younger learners. The current study replicated previous findings and extended them to assess other effects of reinforcement such as the addition of social reinforcement combined with access to a chosen activity, with 2 learners with a diagnosis of ASD.

Preference and Efficacy of Concurrent Schedules of Reinforcement in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

REGAN WESTON (Baylor University)

To determine the efficacy of different schedules of reinforcement, individuals diagnosed with ASD who possessed limited verbal communication skills completed tasks on a long or short interval schedule of reinforcement. Participants completed a specified number of tasks before receiving 5-minute or 30-second access to reinforcement. To elevate discrimination, color-coded token boards were used to represent each schedule. First, participants were exposed to the schedules in an alternating fashion to measure the rate of responding. Participants were then prompted a number of times to select one of the two schedules to use during the same work task to determine whether a preference had emerged. This study replicated and extended the procedures of DeLeon et al (2014) by including individuals with limited verbal repertoires. All participants produced a higher rate of responding when exposed to a long schedule of reinforcement, suggesting this to be the more efficient of the two. Additionally, two participants showed a preference for the long schedule of reinforcement during the choice condition, supporting the use of a token economy to promote discrimination for individuals with limited verbal repertoires.




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