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 #259
CE Offered: BACB
Applications of Behavioral Economics in the Assessment and Treatment of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Sunday, May 25, 2014
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
W184a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Lara M. Delmolino Gatley (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey)
CE Instructor: Kate E. Fiske Massey, Ph.D.

The use of behavioral economics in applied behavior analysis has long been applied to understand areas of study such as addiction, gambling, and consumption. More recently, the application of behavioral economics has been extended to the treatment of individuals with developmental disabilities. In the current symposium, three groups of researchers have examined the utility of behavioral economics principles in the assessment and treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. The first study examines variations of the progressive ratio analysis to increase its utility in clinical settings. The second study evaluates delay discounting in individuals with autism, and considers the impact of presession access to reinforcers on impulsivity. Finally, the third study examines the manipulation of the cost of reinforcement and pay for task completion to increase student completion of nonpreferred tasks.

Keyword(s): Behavioral economics, Delay discounting, Progressive-ratio analysis

Enhancing the Utility of Progressive-Ratio Analyses in Clinical Settings

KATE E. FISKE MASSEY (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University  ), Robert W. Isenhower (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Lauren Alison Pepa (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Robert LaRue (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University  )

Progressive-ratio (PR) schedules of reinforcement are used to evaluate the potency of a reinforcer by assessing the reinforcer's ability to maintain a behavior across successively higher ratio requirements. However, the methods typically described in the literature may limit the utility of the tool in applied settings, due to the use of non-functional tasks, poor student response, and time constraints. To address these issues, we adapted the PR analysis to a vocational task and assessed two stimulus presentation methods, high PR salience and low PR salience, in a multi-element design. Two adolescents with autism were included in the study, one of whom never produced responses in a PR analysis prior to this evaluation and one for whom a break point could not be established during the limited session time. For the first student, the high PR salience condition evoked levels of behavior at which assessment could be successfully completed. For the second student, the low salience condition decreased his responding to a level easily captured within the available time. Results indicate that the PR analysis can be successfully adapted to curricular tasks and that varying the salience of the PR requirements may enhance the utility of the assessment for clinical purposes.


The Effects of Presession Access to Reinforcement on Delay Discounting in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

ROBERT LARUE (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University  ), Lauren Alison Pepa (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Kimberly Sloman (Rutgers University), Kate E. Fiske Massey (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University  ), Lara M. Delmolino Gatley (Douglass Developmental Disability Center, Rutgers University  ), Shawna Ueyama (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Erica Dashow (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University), Ethan Eisdorfer (Rutgers University)

Impulsivity is a common concern in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). While not a defining characteristic of ASDs, the presence of impulsivity can be pervasive and can dramatically affect the intervention process. Delay discounting refers to the decrease in the present value of reinforcers as a function of the delay of their receipt. In other words, the value of reinforcers often decreases as the length of time one has to wait for them increases. Researchers have outlined some procedures for evaluating delay discounting in human populations. However, much of this research is limited to hypothetical choices with typically developing populations. The purpose of the current investigation was the employ delay discounting procedures with individuals with ASDs. In the investigation, participants were given choices between an impulsive choice (a sooner smaller amount of reinforcement) and a self-controlled choice (accepting a delayed, larger amount of reinforcement). Indifference points (the point at which an individual switches from the smaller-sooner to larger-later reinforcement) were plotted. Presession access to reinforcement was then manipulated to determine if the presence of abolishing operations (satiation) affected impulsivity. The preliminary results suggest that using delay discounting procedures may inform treatment development for this clinical population.


The Use of Complex Economies to Influence Choice Making in Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders

CHRISTOPHER MANENTE (Rutgers University), Robert LaRue (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey), Suzanne Wichtel (Rutgers University)

Practitioners often face challenges when developing programming for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). A common challenge involves finding a balance between implementing sound programming and an individual's right to choice. The purpose of the current investigation was to find a way to integrate choice into the habilitation programming for adults with ASD, particularly programming that they may not voluntarily choose to participate. One potential way to increase engagement in low-probability activities is through the manipulation of pay rates of less-preferred tasks and the cost of preferred reinforcing items. In the current investigation, we altered the "pay rate" of specific tasks (high, medium and low preference jobs) and the "cost" of specific reinforcers (high, medium, and low preference rewards). The results from the investigation indicate that the manipulations of pay rate for jobs and cost of rewards resulted in varied responding for both job and reward selection. Specifically, participants switched from stable responding in baseline to varied responding when the economy was manipulated. The procedures outlined in the investigation represent one possible way for practitioners to provide effective intervention while protecting the rights of all people to direct their lives as independently as possible.




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