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 #37
CE Offered: BACB
Incorporating Client Preference Into Intervention Design: Using the Results of Preference Assessments to Inform Practice
Sunday, May 29, 2016
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Grand Suite 3, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: DDA/EDC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Hannah Geiger (University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee)
Discussant: Joel Eric Ringdahl (University of Georgia)
CE Instructor: Joel Eric Ringdahl, Ph.D.

Preference assessments were initially designed to identify potential reinforcers for use in behavioral programming. However, as these procedures have become more refined, researchers have begun asking questions of more subtle aspects of interventions that can affect the efficacy and social validity of interventions with the consumers who experience them. The current symposium provides four examples that investigate the role of client preference for reinforcer gain vs. loss, reinforcer distribution vs. accumulation, and the relative ratio of work to reinforcement (i.e., unit price). These studies combine translational and applied research approaches to inform practice applications.

Keyword(s): preference assessment
Some Effects of Loss Aversion in Token Systems
BARBARA J. DAVIS (University of Maryland, Baltimore County & Little Leaves Behavioral Services), John C. Borrero (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Amber E. Mendres-Smith (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Jessica Becraft (UMBC), Megan Lampson (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Abstract: Few studies have directly compared the differential effects of reinforcer gain and reinforcer loss in a token system. In general, results are mixed. The behavioral economic principle, loss aversion, may be a variable that contributes to the differential effectiveness of a token system. In the first of two experiments, we evaluated whether six preschool children exhibit loss aversion using a human operant preparation. In this arrangement, children made successive selections between two options that resulted in identical payout. In the second experiment, we examined the effects of token gain and loss systems on the task completion of five preschool children from Experiment 1 using symmetrical contingencies of gain and loss. To date, five of six preschoolers exhibited loss aversion in the initial experiment. For three of the five participants, the token loss contingencies produced higher levels of task completion and/or less variability relative to token gain contingencies. In addition, when given the choice between the token gain, token loss, and baseline contingencies, three of four participants preferred the token loss system. These initial results provide support for arranging token loss systems and are consistent with the behavioral economic principle of loss aversion.

Student Preference for Positive or Negative Punishment During the Good Behavior Game

KARA SAMAJ (Monongalia County Schools), Claire C. St. Peter (West Virginia University)

We compared student preference for versions of the Good Behavior Game (Barrish, Saunders, & Wolf, 1969), in which students either earned points following infractions (positive punishment) or lost points following infractions (negative punishment) in an alternative education setting with four students during academic instruction. In the Point-Earning condition, students were required to have two or fewer points to win the game. In the Point-Loss condition, the students were required to keep at least four of six available points to win the game. We defined an infraction as the student leaving his designated space during the course of the game. We started with a phase of brief forced exposures to each condition. After each student had experienced each condition at least once, the teacher asked each student which version of the game he preferred to play at the start of each instructional period, and then implemented the selected game for the remainder of the instructional period. The teacher recorded out of area and inappropriate language. Only one student showed a strong preference for a reinforcer arrangement. There was an increase in game wins for three out of the four students when the teacher provided students with choices.


Assessing the Efficacy of and Child Preference for Massed and Distributed Work Conditions With a Child With Escape Maintained Problem Behavior

HANNAH GEIGER (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Melissa Krabbe (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Jeffrey H. Tiger (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Differential reinforcement of compliance is a common treatment for children present with escape-maintained problem behavior. This treatment involves providing positive reinforcement following compliance with simple instructions. Although effective, practically this intervention is challenging in home and school settings when it is preferable for children to complete chains of responses (e.g., putting away all of their toys prior to consuming reinforcement rather than following each toy). However, engaging in multiple responses (which we will term massed work periods) results in increasing establishing operations for escape and greater delays to reinforcement relative to conditions that require a single response (which we term distributed work conditions), and thus could potentially result in greater problem behavior. In the current study, we exposed a child with escape-maintained aggression to both massed and distributed work conditions to assess the efficacy of both arrangements. We then assessed this childs preference for both arrangements using a concurrent-chains procedure. Massed and distributed work conditions both resulted in near zero levels of aggression, but the child demonstrated a robust preference for distributed work conditions.


A Behavioral Economic Analysis of Self-Control: The Influence of Unit Price on Self-Control and Impulsive Choice Responding

WILLIAM SULLIVAN (Upstate Medical University), Terry S. Falcomata (The University of Texas at Austin), Henry S. Roane (Upstate Medical University)

Three experiments were conducted to evaluate the influence of unit price on self-control and impulsive choice responding exhibited by individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. In Experiment 1, unit price was altered via manipulations of reinforcement magnitude associated with the delayed option. In one condition, unit price favored the immediate option and in the second condition, unit price favored the delayed option. In Experiment 2, unit price was also altered via manipulations of reinforcement magnitude associated with the delayed option. In one condition, unit price favored the immediate option and in the second condition, unit price was equal for both options. In Experiment 3, reinforcement magnitude always favored one option, while unit price was manipulated via delay. In one condition, delay was held constant and in the second condition, the delayed option was associated with the larger reinforcement magnitude. Results of each Experiment demonstrated that self-control and impulsive choice responding was biased toward the more economical option. These results show that the application of behavioral economic principles in the form of unit price may provide a framework for the study and conceptualization of impulsivity and self-control choice responding.




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