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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #310
The Broad Utility of Behavioral Economics: Novel Applications for Sustainability, Health, and Industry
Sunday, May 29, 2022
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 153A
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Meredith S. Berry (University of Florida)
Discussant: Steven R Hursh (Institutes for Behavior Resources, Inc.)
Abstract: The speakers in this symposium will present on several methodological and conceptual advances in behavioral economic applications. Dr. Jillian Rung will present research evaluating whether sunk cost phenomena—typically when financial investments lead to persistence—apply to behavioral investments, and in particular those that lead to positive outcomes in the form of abstinence from alcohol use. Brett Gelino will discuss the ability of a novel operant demand decision making task to detect differences in community-scale “green” consumerism following introduction of choice architectural environmental manipulations. Dr. Lindsay Schwartz will present on findings related to hypothetical purchase tasks used to assess smartwatch brand demand in consumers, demonstrating that purchase tasks can be sensitive enough to detect differences in demand for brands of smartwatches. Garret Hack will discuss the importance of identifying factors that influence transportation choices in order to promote sustainable behaviors, and the effects of framing manipulations on participants’ reported likelihood of using public transportation in discounting tasks. Dr. Steve Hursh will serve as discussant and will integrate overarching behavioral economic concepts in the context of several novel methodological and conceptual advances covered by this symposium’s speakers.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Behavioral Economics, Demand, Discounting, Purchase Tasks
The Upside to Sunk Costs: Framing Recovery as an Investment May Help Maintain Alcohol Abstinence
JILLIAN RUNG (University of Florida), Meredith S. Berry (University of Florida)
Abstract: Focusing on prior investments can lead to persistence toward an outcome, with most studies evaluating such phenomena in the context of financial losses (i.e., sunk costs). The present research sought to determine whether focusing on prior investments could lead to positive outcomes: in this case, whether construing prior alcohol abstinence as an investment in a hypothetical scenario could encourage a greater likelihood of remaining abstinent. Participants were adults recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk (ages 18-71) who recently consumed alcohol and were at risk for alcohol use disorder. In an online survey, participants were randomly assigned to a no-vignette (neutral) control or an abstinence-related vignette in which participants imagined deciding to quit drinking or having already quit (for 60 or 120 days). Participants then completed a probability-based alcohol purchase task indicating their likelihood of drinking in a tempting hypothetical scenario (abstinence vignettes) or right now (control). Preliminary data analysis using simple nonparametric tests indicates that the decision to quit (motivation) produces large reductions in likelihood of drinking (ps <.05), whereas engaging in abstinence produces nominal reductions beyond motivation (ps > .05). Ongoing data analysis will clarify among whom the manipulation may have most efficacy and whether demand characteristics impact manipulation outcomes.
A Behavioral Economic Analysis of Carbon-Neutral Energy Purchasing
BRETT GELINO (University of Kansas), Derek D. Reed (University of Kansas)
Abstract: In the described experiments, we probe the ability of a novel operant demand decision making task to detect differences in community-scale “green” consumerism following introduction of choice architectural environmental manipulations. In both experiments, participants are asked to make decisions regarding their enrollment in an environmentally friendly home-energy supply at prices unique to their household experience. In Experiment 1, we assess task baseline performance by examining consistency within generated demand metrics, relation of metrics to existing measures of ecological concern, and metric predictive ability as it pertains to eco-friendly action. Results suggest adequate internal performance and conceptual divergence from existing measures. In Experiment 2, we test the performance of the task as a framework for evaluating scalable choice architectural intervention. In this case, participants indicate their willingness to enroll or remain enrolled, pending an opt-in or opt-out arrangement. Results suggest task sensitivity sufficient to detect group differences in demand: Our opt-out arrangements (i.e., default enrollment) produced significantly greater clean energy purchasing. Overall findings infer viability of our novel task for use as an evaluative instrument in prospective community intervention.
Behavioral Economic Purchase Tasks for New Product Development
LINDSAY SCHWARTZ (Institutes for Behavior Resources)
Abstract: The quantification of behavioral economic demand can provide an important insight into how users might react to new products that target health-related decisions. Hypothetical purchase tasks (HPT) and operant demand analyses are commonly used to understand behaviors related to preventive health, such as drug use and vaccine uptake, but can also be applied to study decisions made about consumer products and brands, such as sleep-tracking smartwatches. In a series of ongoing pilot studies, HPTs are used to assess smartwatch and smartwatch brand demand in consumers recruited via Amazon’s mTurk platform. These studies demonstrate that HPTs can be sensitive enough to detect differences in demand for brands of smartwatches, especially for participants that already use that brand’s products. However, a lack of detection in differences due to product features may indicate that future guidelines for HPT construction are likely required. Ongoing studies are focused on collecting additional data to determine the sensitivity and validity of using HPTs in this context.
The Effects of Framing on Discounting of Pro-Environmental Transportation Choices
GARRET HACK (University of Florida), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida), Andrew C Bonner (University of Florida ), Sarah Catherine Weinsztok (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Identifying factors that influence choices among emission-producing activities, in order to promote sustainable behaviors, is crucial to limiting the effects of climate change. Transportation is one of the largest sources of human-produced emission, given the widespread use of personal gas vehicles. Public mass transportation produces fewer emissions but is associated with longer times between leaving home and arriving at a destination. The current study examined the effects of framing manipulations on participants’ reported likelihood of using public transportation in discounting tasks. The majority of current participants were white, female, college undergraduates. Each participant completed two discounting tasks, one with neutral framing and another with environmental framing. Choices were offered between using a personal vehicle or taking public transportation involving a specified length of additional time to reach a destination. The dependent variable was participants’ reported likelihood of using public transportation, provided on a visual analogue scale. Participants experienced either a neutral-environmental condition sequence or an environmental-neutral sequence. In the neutral-environmental sequence, participants reported higher likelihood of using public transportation in the environmentally framed condition than the neutral condition. Little difference was observed between conditions in the environmental-neutral sequence.



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