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 #572
CE Offered: BACB
Changing Choice: Explorations on Effective Soft-Commitment Procedures and Effects of Aversive Stimulation on Self-Control
Monday, May 30, 2022
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 152
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Camilo Hurtado-Parrado (Southern Illinois University)
CE Instructor: Camilo Hurtado-Parrado, Ph.D.

Impulsive behavior is the preference of a smaller sooner (SS) reinforcer over a larger later (LL) reinforcer; the opposite is self-control behavior. Impulsive choice characterizes many behaviors posing significant risks to public health (e.g., substance abuse and pathological gambling). Despite major advances in our field towards understanding factors that affect impulsive preference (e.g., fading, framing, and priming procedures to reduce delay discounting), there is still a need to continue identifying relevant variables and strengthening procedures that reduce impulsive choice. The first presentation will examine commitment (behavior emitted at a time prior to the choice point that eliminates or reduces the probability of impulsive behavior), its two types (strict and soft), and will explore a framework for the development and evaluation of effective soft-commitment procedures. The second presentation will analyze the findings of an experiment that tested the effects of noncontingent visual aversive stimulation on human self-control. It will also compare these findings with previous research that has shown that other forms of aversive stimulation (intense noise and cold water) increase impulsive behavior. The last presentation will build on the second, discussing the findings of a study that explored the effects of mild noncontingent aversive stimulation (electric shocks) on self-control and preference reversal of Wistar rats.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): aversive control, commitment, preference reversal, self-control
Target Audience:

It is ideal that participants in the audience have a basic understanding of the overall behavior analytic approach to choice, including the notion of self-control behavior and delay discounting.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to... (1) Differentiate soft and strict commitment in self-control, and theoretical and methodological approaches to understand them. (2) Differentiate self-control and impulsive behavior, and the experimental methodologies implemented in behavior analysis to study them. (3) Define delay discounting and some procedures to measure it. (4) Name the effects of aversive stimulation on self-control behavior of human and rodents reported on related research
Toward effective soft commitment procedures
ALVARO A. CLAVIJO ALVAREZ (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)
Abstract: As the procedures for improving self-control outside the lab are still far from successful compared to those that researchers use in the lab, identifying what makes them effective in natural environments is a priority. Self-control entails forgoing temptations or immediate smaller sooner rewards, SSR, to pursue larger later and frequently more abstract rewards, LLR. The more valued immediate junk food and sedentary lifestyle, the addictive substances, or the social non-productive life, among others, prevent people from having a happier and healthier life in the future. In the lab, commitment is the successful procedures’ key component, and two commitment procedures exist: strict and soft. Strict commitment works in simple ambivalence situations wherein preventing the future contact with temptations is possible, while soft commitment works when in complex ambivalence situations wherein it is impossible to prevent the future contact with more abstract temptations. The value reversals that the hyperbolic delay discounting models predict account for the effectiveness of the strict procedure, but it is insufficient to account for the effectiveness of the soft procedures, which seems to depend on pattern building, bundling, and substitution. The purpose of this presentation is to examine a framework for the development and evaluation of effective soft commitment procedures. Some pilot data support the framework partially.
Effects of Non-Contingent Aversive Visual Stimulation on Choice Behavior
KAREN VIVIANA HENAO BARBOSA (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)
Abstract: Exposure to some types of non-contingent aversive stimulation, such as high-intensity noise, decreases self-control behavior. As human and nonhuman animals frequently face different forms of aversive stimulation, it is crucial to understand how other types of stimulation alter self-control choices. This study evaluated how much non-contingent aversive visual stimulation decreases self-control responses on Colombian college students compared to the results obtained with aversive noise and cold pressure pain. A standard program presented one button on the left side and another on the right side of a computer screen. One of the buttons delivered 2-points (impulsive alternative - SS) immediately. A 16 s waiting time followed. The other button delivered 10 points after a 16 s delay (self-controlled alternative - LL). In a non-contingent matching to sample trials procedure, geometrical figures were the sample while IAPS images depicting mutilated humans with the geometrical figure (correct comparison stimulus) superimposed on them was the comparison stimulus. Participants solved a delay discounting task before and after the self-control choice task. The k and AUC values did not indicate how some participants behaved, and non-contingent exposure to aversive visual stimulation only generated an impulsive choice pattern in the short term.

Self-Control and Preference Reversal in Wistar Rats Exposed to Noncontingent Shocks

CAMILO HURTADO-PARRADO (Southern Illinois University), Julian Cifuentes (University of Birmingham, England), Alejandro Segura (Universidad de Guadalajara, Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones en Comportamiento (CEIC))

Green and Estle’s (2003) procedure was systematically replicated to explore the effect of non-contingent shocks on self-control and preference reversal of Wistar rats. Subjects chose between a smaller-sooner (SS) and a larger-later (LL) reinforcer. Eight of the rats also received concurrently 0.5-s shocks of 0.25mA in a 60-s random time schedule throughout all phases of the experiment. During baseline, rats chose between SS = 2 pellets after a 0.5-s delay and LL = 4 pellets after a 6-s delay. Most rats slightly preferred LL at the start of this phase. Except three non-shocked subjects, rats increased their LL preference across sessions, with shocked rats showing an overall higher increase. In phase 2, delays were added systematically only in the LL option until each animal showed a steady SS preference (number of pellets in SS and LL was not changed). The amount of time added until rats showed SS preference varied across subjects (6 to 36 s). Shocked rats overall showed more responding on LL throughout the different increments in delays. In phase 3, systematic increases in SS and LL of 5-s, 15-s, and 25-s were implemented to reverse the rats’ preference from the SS option to the LL option. Subjects exposed to shocks showed greater preference for the LL option across all the delays. Our findings overall are not aligned with the previously-reported increase of impulsive behavior under contingent and noncontingent aversive stimulation. For example, humans exposed to aversive noise and immersion of hands in cold water increased their responses in SS (Flora et al., 1993, 2003). Also, noncontingent aversive tone disrupted fixed-interval responding of rats, increasing unnecessary responding (Reed, 2011). The distribution of non-contingent shocks pre and post reinforcement on each option (SS and LL) was explored as a potential explanation (e.g., higher rate of shocks delivered after reinforcement in SS).




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