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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #79
Establishing Praise and Visual Stimuli as Conditioned Reinforcers: Basic, Bridge, and Applied Research
Sunday, May 29, 2016
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
Columbus Hall KL, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: AUT/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Catherine Taylor-Santa (Caldwell University)
Discussant: Daniel Gould (New England Center for Children - Abu Dhabi)

This symposium will include four data-based presentations on establishing conditioned reinforcers. The first presentation will report on two experiments with rats. The first experiment compared pairing and operant discrimination training to condition a cue light as a reinforcer, but the results were equivocal. The second experiment clearly demonstrated overshadowing effects. Results suggested that the pairing procedure creates overshadowing or blocking effects. The second study compared two pairing conditions (pair-with-one and pair-with-four) to establish praise as a conditioned reinforcer with five children with autism. Results indicated that although both pairing procedures increased responding, pair-with-four tended to have higher levels and more maintenance. The third study extends the research on using a discrimination training procedure to establish praise statements as conditioned reinforcers for three children with autism. Results indicated that previously neutral praise statements functioned as conditioned reinforcers while nonsense words did not for all participants. The fourth (on-going) study compared the effectiveness of stimulus-stimulus and response-stimulus pairing to condition neutral visual stimuli as reinforcers for four adolescents with autism. Discrimination training was also investigated when the pairing procedures were ineffective or there was no differentiation between S+ and S- stimuli. Results will be discussed in terms of optimal pairing techniques.

Keyword(s): autism, conditioned reinforcers, discrimination training, pairing
Comparing Different Procedures Aimed to Establish Conditioned Reinforcers: Procedural Challenges and Some Solutions
MONICA VANDBAKK (Norwegian Association for Behavior Analysis/Oslo and Akershus University College), Per Holth (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences)
Abstract: Social conditioned reinforcers typically acquire their effect by being paired with other reinforcers. However, some research have indicated that conditioned reinforcers can develop more effectively through an operant discrimination procedure. Few studies have compared the efficacy of the two procedures directly, and these attempts have been plagued with methodological challenges. The current paper reports on two experiments. The first compared the effectiveness of pairing and operant discrimination training with rats. We paired one cue light with the presentation of an unconditioned reinforcer, and we established a second cue light as a discriminative stimulus for an operant response that produced the reinforcing consequence. Tests of the two lights as conditioned reinforcers were equivocal. Further testing suggested that some collateral auditory stimuli rather than the cue light functioned as conditioned reinforcers for the behavior of the rats exposed to the pairing procedure, and that these other stimuli overshadowed the cue light. Overshadowing effects were clearly demonstrated in a second experiment, and a subsequent conditioned reinforcer test suggested that the pairing procedure, in particular, creates overshadowing or blocking effects and thus can hinder effective conditioning of new stimuli as reinforcers.

Establishing Praise as a Conditioned Reinforcer: The Effects of Pairing With One Versus Multiple Reinforcers

LAURA L. DUDLEY (Northeastern University; Simmons College), Judah B. Axe (Simmons College), Ronald F. Allen (Simmons College), Emily Sweeney Kerwin (Regis College)

Praise and other forms of attention may not function as a reinforcer for the behavior of children with autism. Previous research showed that pairing praise with an established reinforcer contingent on a response increased the rate of that response when only praise was delivered as the consequence. There were two purposes of the present study. First, we replicated the previous research on the effects of contingent pairing on responding with praise alone using a multiple baseline design across the 5 participants with autism. The second purpose was to use a reversal design to compare pairing praise with one reinforcer versus pairing praise with four reinforcers. After each phase of 105 pairings, we compared responding with praise and no programmed consequence conditions to test the effects of the two pairing conditions and control for antecedent discrimination. Compared to the pair-with-one condition, data in the pair-with-four condition showed higher levels, more increasing trends, and more maintenance. The pair-with-four condition may be more effective in increasing and sustaining responding under praise conditions as it establishes praise as a generalized conditioned reinforcer freeing responding from a single establishing operation. Further analysis of the conditions under which praise becomes a reinforcer is warranted.


A Discrimination Training Procedure to Establish Praise as a Conditioned Reinforcer for Children With Autism

ERIN SAINSBURY (Caldwell University), Tina Sidener (Caldwell University), Catherine Taylor-Santa (Caldwell University), Kenneth F. Reeve (Caldwell University), David W. Sidener (Garden Academy)

Research has demonstrated that for some children with autism social stimuli often do not function as reinforcers. This lack of social stimuli as reinforcers is problematic for children with autism because praise is one of the most commonly used educational reinforcers, is naturally maintained, and readily available in a multitude of environments. Unfortunately, there is currently no clear research-based technology for establishing social stimuli as conditioned reinforcers. This study used a concurrent multiple-baseline design across stimulus/response sets to evaluate the discrimination training procedure for establishing praise as a conditioned reinforcer for three children with autism. Two praise words and two nonsense words, determined to be neutral, were chosen for each participant. During discrimination training, praise words were established as SDs and nonsense words were established as S?s. During pre-tests and post-tests, each stimulus was delivered as a consequence for new responses. Results demonstrated that previously neutral praise statements functioned as conditioned reinforcers, and nonsense words did not function as conditioned reinforcers for all three participants.


A Comparison of Pairing Procedures to Establish Neutral Stimuli as Reinforcers for Adolescents With Autism

CHRISTINA LOUISE SLATEN (Caldwell University), Tina Sidener (Caldwell University), Catherine Taylor-Santa (Caldwell University), Danielle L. Gureghian (Garden Academy), Kenneth F. Reeve (Caldwell University)

Few studies have directly compared the effectiveness of pairing procedures to establish a novel stimulus as a conditioned reinforcer with humans. A technology for establishing conditioned reinforcers is particularly important for individuals with autism due to limited reinforcing effectiveness of social stimuli and age-appropriate activities. The current study is the first to compare the effectiveness of stimulus-stimulus pairing and response-stimulus pairing procedures to establish a neutral visual stimulus as a conditioned reinforcer for four adolescents with autism. Discrimination training procedures will be implemented if stimulus-stimulus pairing and response-stimulus pairing are both ineffective. Two different visual stimuli and one response are assessed during each condition; one visual stimulus is paired with a high-preference item and the other visual stimulus is not to serve as control. Results of this (on-going) bridge study will be discussed in terms of optimal pairing techniques for adolescents with autism; directions for future applied research on conditioned reinforcement will be suggested.




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