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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #332
CE Offered: BACB
Behavior Can Be "All Fun and Games": Gamification Research and Applications
Monday, May 26, 2014
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
W190b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: CSE/EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jillian Rung (Utah State University)
Discussant: Janet S. Twyman (University of Massachusetts Medical School/Center on Innovations in Learning)
CE Instructor: Bethany R. Raiff, Ph.D.

While games have been a part of human culture for many years, gamification, or the application of game elements to another activity, is an under-utilized tool within the experimental analysis of behavior and within applied methodologies for promoting behavior change. A brief history of games and features of games are discussed, along with a behavior-analytic perspective of game elements; the future implications of gamification for basic and applied research are described. Current research adopting gamification in a behavioral intervention to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in school-aged children, as well as within a contingency management program for smoking cessation are reviewed. Novel developments in the experimental analysis of behavior using gaming environments are described, which allow us to explore behavior within complex environments where contingencies are constantly changing. These methods thus far support the utility of gamification as an engaging, sustainable approach to behavioral interventions, and as an effective, time-efficient mode of assessing dynamic reinforcement contingencies in humans.

Keyword(s): contingency management, decision making, gamification
Playing to Learn: Formulating a Behavior Analytic Account of Games
ZACHARY H. MORFORD (University of Nevada, Reno), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Games have been a ubiquitous part of human culture for thousands of years. While games began simply in human culture, today games come in a wide variety of forms, including board games, dice games, card games, athletic games, and video games. The conditions surrounding games result in people spending millions of dollars and billions of hours on games each year. As such, these conditions warrant a closer examination regarding how games are designed behavior analytically. In this talk, a brief history of games is provided and a few important definitions of games are reviewed. Many of these definitions fail to adequately identify the common elements of all games. Thus a conceptual analysis of games is discussed from a behavior analytic perspective, with an emphasis placed on the critical and non-critical features of games. Lastly, a brief discussion will be provided regarding the implications for this analysis, and how it relates to both applied and basic research in behavior analysis.

Playing Games with Food: Using Gamification to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Elementary-School Cafeterias

BROOKE ASHLEY JONES (Utah State University), Gregory J. Madden (Utah State University), Heidi Wengreen (Utah State University), Sheryl Aguilar (Utah State University)

School-based interventions designed to increase fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption can be effective, but the most effective ones require that schools allocate time, effort, and financial resources to program implementation. The present project used a behaviorally based gamification approach to develop an intervention designed to increase FV consumption while minimizing the school's labor/material costs. During the intervention, the school (N=180 students in grades K-8) played a cooperative game in which school-level goals were met by consuming either fruit or vegetables. School-level consumption was quantified using a weight-based waste measure in the cafeteria. Results of Study 1 showed that over a period of 18 school days, fruit consumption increased by 67% and vegetable consumption by 43% above baseline levels. Use of an alternating-treatment time-series design with differentiated levels of FV consumption on days when fruit or vegetable was targeted for improvement supported the role of the intervention in these overall consumption increases. These findings suggest that gamification principles may prove practically useful in addressing concerns about poor dietary decision making by children in schools. In Study 2, we further explore the gamification approach by examining the effects of (a) a longer-term intervention and (b) individual-level (in addition to group-level) consumption.


Internet and Videogame-based Contingency Management for Promoting Healthy Behavior

BETHANY R. RAIFF (Rowan University), Jesse Dallery (University of Florida), Darion Rapoza (Entertainment Sciences, Inc.)

We developed an Internet-based Contingency Management (CM) intervention, where participants earn monetary incentives contingent on web-camera verified evidence of healthy behavior, such as smoking abstinence and diabetes management. Not only has our Internet-based CM intervention been effective at initiating smoking abstinence and diabetes regimen adherence (e.g., in a current clinical trial, 43% of videos submitted indicate smoking abstinence, compared with only 14% of videos submitted by a control group), participants have also rated the intervention favorably on a number of dimensions. To overcome barriers to Internet-based CM, such as the cost of incentives and long-term sustainability, we are currently developing a videogame-based CM intervention for smoking abstinence. Smokers will be able to earn game-based resources, or access to special features in the game, in place of monetary incentives. Videogame-based CM will promote widespread access to an innovative, fun, sustainable intervention at a relatively low cost (the game will be available to play for free), thereby offering the potential to have a substantial public health impact.

Impulsivity and Risk Taking in a Gaming Environment
MICHAEL YOUNG (Kansas State University), Tara Webb (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Jillian Rung (Utah State University), Anthony McCoy (Kansas State University)
Abstract: Individuals frequently face decisions where the nature of outcomes change as a function of time; for example, the longer one waits to reserve a flight, the more likely it is that the price has increased as the departure date nears, while the likelihood of having available seats declines. Dynamically changing situations in which magnitude and probability are in flux have typically been measured in isolation, or only in one direction (increasing magnitude while decreasing probability). Using a video game engine, choice was assessed under conditions in which waiting produced a continuously increasing probability of an outcome with a continuously decreasing magnitude (Experiment 1) or a continuously increasing magnitude of an outcome with a continuously decreasing probability (Experiment 2). Performance in both experiments reflected a greater desire for a higher probability even though the corresponding wait times produced substantive decreases in overall performance. The differential weighting of these two aspects allows us to understand how individuals make decisions in complex contingencies where magnitude and probability are constantly changing.



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