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.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Symposium #262
CE Offered: BACB
An Examination of Variables that Influence Participant Preferences among Varying Reinforcement Arrangements
Sunday, May 25, 2008
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
Area: EDC/EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Iser Guillermo DeLeon (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
CE Instructor: Iser Guillermo DeLeon, Ph.D.

Behavior analysts have devoted considerable time and research effort towards developing methods to identify reinforcers for use in applied settings, and in validating those methods. Less attention has been paid to optimal arrangements for the use of those reinforcers, particularly from the perspective of the participants in question. The current set of investigations were undertaken to understand childrens preferences for one reinforcement arrangement versus another. Three of the studies used concurrent-chain schedules to identify childrens preferences for specific arrangements that included free vs. contingent reinforcement, choice of reinforcers vs. no choice of reinforcers, and distributed reinforcement vs. massed, delayed reinforcement. A fourth investigation examined how preference among available options interacts with task difficulty. Each study yields meaningful implications for the design of reinforcement programs in applied settings.

Evaluating Continuity as a Valuable Dimension of Reinforcement for Children with Developmental Disabilities.
MICHELLE A. FRANK-CRAWFORD CRAWFORD (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Julie Ann Chase (University of Maryland, Baltimore Co.), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Melissa J. Allman (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
Abstract: The potency of some reinforcers may be enhanced by continuous, rather than interrupted, access even though delivery to reinforcement is delayed. This study used a concurrent-chain schedule to examine the preferences of 3 participants with autism for two kinds of reinforcement arrangements: 1) smaller, temporally distributed amounts immediately following each response, or 2) continuous (uninterrupted) access to reinforcers following the completion of multiple responses. Each session consisted of 5 trials of 10 demands. The participants were given the choice of the reinforcement arrangements prior to each trial. The choice for distributed access resulted in 30s access to the activity or a piece of an edible following each demand. The choice for continuous access resulted in earning tokens for compliance, each redeemable for 30s of reinforcement (300 consecutive seconds) or 1 piece of the edible (10 edibles delivered at once) delivered after the session. When the reinforcer was an activity, all 3 participants preferred uninterrupted access to the reinforcers. When the reinforcer was an edible item, one preferred continuous access and 2 participants showed indifference. For all three participants, the continuous access condition resulted in less time to complete an equivalent amount of work.
Preference of Children for Working over Free Reinforcement.
KEVIN C. LUCZYNSKI (The New England Center for Children and Western New England College), Gregory P. Hanley (Western New England University)
Abstract: The present study sought to determine the boundary conditions for preferring contingent over noncontingent delivery of reinforcement. Two contexts were arranged that involved the delivery of a preferred edible item contingent upon a correct academic response or yoked delivery on a time-based schedule (noncontingent reinforcement [NCR]). The frequency, amount, and temporal distribution of reinforcement in the NCR schedule were yoked to the contingent reinforcement schedule. Interobserver agreement data on child selections and academic performance was collected on 53% of all sessions and averaged above 95%. After observing a preference for contingencies using a modified concurrent-chains arrangement, the fixed ratio response requirement was progressively increased. A shift or disruption in preference among the schedules was observed for 3 out of the 4 children as the schedule was increased to a fixed-ratio 10. Experimental control over the preference shift, as a function of the intermittent schedules, was demonstrated for 2 out of the 3 children. The conditions under which children may prefer to “work” to access reinforcement instead of obtaining it freely will be discussed along with the implications of our results for providing reinforcement to young children.
A Further Analysis of Children’s Preferences for Choice.
ANNA C. SCHMIDT (University of Kansas), Gregory P. Hanley (Western New England University), Stacy A. Layer (University of Kansas)
Abstract: We sought to extend previous research that has evaluated conditions under which children prefer the opportunity to choose. In the initial link of a concurrent chains arrangement, children selected a worksheet correlated with a choice, no choice, or control condition. An array of five identical stimuli was presented in each condition. Correct responses to academic stimuli in the terminal link resulted in (a) one item selected from the array by the child (Choice), (b) one item selected for the child by the experimenter (No Choice), and (c) no access to the stimuli (Control). Interobserver agreement on child selections was collected in 54% of sessions and mean agreement was 100%. In Study 1, in which edible items were presented as consequences for academic responding in the terminal links, five of six children allocated a majority of their responses to the choice condition. To assess the generality of these findings, non-edible stimuli were presented in Study 2. Preference for choice conditions was observed for all but one child. The preference for choice reemerged for this latter child when edible consequences were re-introduced. Implications for designing reinforcement programs will be discussed.
Sensitivity and Bias under Conditions of Asymmetrical Effort Requirements in Academic Tasks.
DEREK D. REED (Syracuse University), Brian K. Martens (Syracuse University)
Abstract: We conducted an experimental analysis of children's relative problem completion rates across two workstations under conditions of equal (Experiment 1) and unequal (Experiment 2) problem difficulty. Results are described using the generalized matching equation. Experiment 1 involved a symmetrical-choice arrangement in which the children could earn points exchangeable for rewards contingent on correct math problem completion. Points were delivered according to signaled variable-interval schedules at each workstation. During Experiment 1, both workstations had low effort requirements. For two children, relative rates of problem completion appeared to have been controlled by the schedule requirements in effect and matched relative rates of reinforcement, with sensitivity values near one and bias values near zero. Experiment 2 involved increasing the effort requirement to high effort at one of the workstations. Sensitivity values f0r all three participants were near one, but a substantial increase in bias toward the less effortful alternative was observed.



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