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.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #394
Using Delay Discounting to Better Characterize Clinically-Relevant Phenomena
Monday, May 28, 2012
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
4C-4 (Convention Center)
Area: CBM/EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Richard Yi (University of Maryland)

Delay discounting is a behavioral measure of impulsive choice frequently studied in the context of substance dependence. Relatively little research has extended the study of discounting phenomena to other clinical domains, in spite of the fact that a sensitivity to delayed versus immediate outcomes is an important aspect of many phenomena that clinicians and therapists deal with on a daily basis. The purpose of this symposium will be to present novel extensions of delay discounting to different clinically-relevant phenomena. Jenks and Lawyer examine how transient anxiety associated with delivering a public speaking presentation affects impulsive choice among low- and high-social-anxiety participants. Pickover, et al. present research demonstrating changes in delay discounting behavior as a function of being instructed to think concretely about the future. Kuhn, et al. present a novel experiment examining whether self-report versus behavioral measures of impulsive choice are sensitive to instructions to feign ADHD. Finally, Waltz and Follette examine how psychological discounting measures can capture important aspects of the approach-avoidance conflict that can accompany treatment in particular and behavior change more generally. Taken together, the research presented here represents an important effort to extend the study of discounting phenomena to a broad range of clinical domains.

Keyword(s): clinical, discounting

Effects of Laboratory-induced Anxiety on Impulsive Choice in Socially Anxious and Nonanxious Adults

CHARLES JENKS (Idaho State University), Steven R. Lawyer (Idaho State University)

Individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) are at an increased risk for developing a dependence on alcohol and other illicit substances, which is associated with the behavioral phenomenon of delay discounting, a behavioral measure of impulsive choice. Although dependence on alcohol and drugs has been shown to be linked with impulsive choice, research examining whether short-term anxiety increases the risk of impulsive choice is relatively inconclusive. Research to date suggests that higher levels of social anxiety are associated with higher levels of impulsivity but it is not clear whether context-specific affective states (e.g., anxiety) influence impulsive choice or if individuals who develop anxiety-related disorders are dispositionally more impulsive than others. This study examines whether or not anxiety induced by a public speaking task will increase impulsivity as measured by the delay discounting paradigm in a sample of high- versus low-social anxiety college-student participants. Data collection is currently underway. Preliminary analyses of the low-social-anxiety group suggest that participants asked to give an impromptu speech (n = 24) have higher rates of discounting than those in a control (silent reading; n = 24) condition (t = 2.10, p < .04). Small group sizes in the high anxiety participants collected so far prevent cogent analysis, but will be presented when a full dataset is established. These findings have direct relevance to the understanding of the role of impulsivity in co-occurring anxiety and substance use disorders.


Future Time Orienting and Intertemporal Discounting

ALISON PICKOVER (University of Maryland, College Park), Victoria Layfield (University of Maryland, College Park), Richard Yi (University of Maryland)

Research on temporal discounting reveals a general preference for immediate rather than delayed rewards, and steeper discounting rates have been shown to be related to a number of risk behaviors including substance abuse, pathological gambling, and risky sexual behavior. Interpreted within the framework of construal level theory (CLT; Trope & Lieberman, 2003), preference for rewards that are immediate may functionally represent a preference for outcomes with concrete, incidental, low-level construal associated with psychologically proximal outcomes. The resulting implication is that activation of a low-level construal of psychologically distal outcomes should result in increased preference for the delayed outcome in temporal discounting tasks. To examine this hypothesis, 42 college students completed2 discounting procedures1 week apart, with the order of the procedures counterbalanced between subjects. In the experimental condition, individuals were primed to think concretely about the future, in the control condition, to think concretely about the present. Each session included a concurrent temporal discounting task. Consistent with prediction, less temporal discounting was observed when individuals were primed to think concretely about the future (p<.05). This finding indicates that the fundamentals of CLT can be applied to reduce temporal discounting, informing behavioral interventions targeting cross-temporal decision making.

Instructional Control of ADHD Symptomatology
ROBIN M. KUHN (Central Michigan University), Michael D. Hixson (Central Michigan University), John R. Smethells (Central Michigan University), Mark P. Reilly (Central Michigan University)
Abstract: While behavioral treatment of ADHD has been shown to be effective, considerably less is known about the role of behavioral measures of ADHD-related symptoms, such as measures of impulsiveness, in the assessment of adult ADHD. The purpose of this study was to take the first step towards evaluating the effectiveness of behavioral measures at accurately identifying excesses in impulsiveness, a defining feature of ADHD. Three groups of college students completed an assessment battery including two rating scales of impulsiveness, two delay discounting tasks, and three academic measures after receiving instructions to feign ADHD, to not feign ADHD, or to do their best. Results suggested that both self-report measures and the video delay discounting task were most sensitive to instructions, producing significant between-group differences in impulsiveness. Instructions did not result in differences in discounting on the hypothetical delay discounting task. This study provides preliminary evidence that certain behavioral measures of impulsiveness differ in their sensitivity to control by instructions. The clinical implications of results obtained, including the discriminant validity of delay discounting measures and their potential value with respect to identifying non-credible performance in adult ADHD assessment, will be discussed.

Temporal and Psychological Discounting of Events Related to Social Anxiety

THOMAS J. WALTZ (Center for Mental Healthcare and Outcomes Research), William C. Follette (University of Nevada, Reno)

Discounting, as assessed by repeated binary choice procedures represents an accessible method for clinical psychologists to measure discounting. The present study investigated the relationship between discounting and measures of social aspects of psychological functioning using a convenience sample of 357 college undergraduates. All measures were completed online. The first psychological discounting task emulated the costs and benefits of entering therapy. Participants indicated how much anxiety they would be willing to experience for various levels of improvement in social functioning. The second psychological discounting task emulated the implicit costs and benefits of failing to engage in behavior change. Participants indicated how much of a loss in social functioning they were willing to experience to experience for various levels of relief from anxiety. Four temporal discounting tasks involving increases and decreases in social functioning and anxiety were also administered. Participant responses across all six discounting tasks were adequately characterized by the hyperbolic model (R-sq range 0.74 0.97, SE range 0.0529 0.1346). Overall, when discounting performances for individuals reporting high and low social functioning were compared few differences were observed between groups on the temporal discounting measures. Differences were more reliably observed on the psychological discounting tasks. For example, individuals reporting high social anxiety (upper quartile) discounted entering therapy less than those reporting low social anxiety (t = 3.02, p. = .002, d = 0.70). The discussion will focus on how psychological discounting measures can capture important aspects of the approach-avoidance conflict that can accompany treatment in particular and behavior change more generally.




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