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 #317
CE Offered: BACB
Questioning Conditioned Reinforcement
Monday, May 28, 2012
9:30 AM–10:50 AM
620 (Convention Center)
Area: AAB/PRA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jennifer L. Sobie (University of Illinois)
Discussant: Susan G. Friedman (Utah State University)
CE Instructor: Jennifer L. Sobie, Ph.D.
Abstract: The conditioned reinforcer can be a sharp tool for communicating specific response criteria to learners. As such, it has revolutionized the field of behavior change. In fact, the role of the conditioned reinforcer in applied settings is sometimes bestowed omnipotent status, which threatens to obscure the necessary understanding and technical skill to use it well. Used skillfully, conditioned reinforcers can improve contiguity and contingency, mark events, and function as occasion setting stimuli that influence an organism’s response expression. This collection of presentations analyzes these roles and provides insight, commentary and conditioning strategies in an effort to help trainers of all species develop a systematic, best-use approach in their use of the magical conditioned reinforcer. The first presentation evaluates scheduling effects and the importance of the conditioned reinforcer as a reliable information-imparting stimulus; the second presentation provides an overview of the many functions of conditioned reinforcer stimuli; and the third presentation discusses differing conditioning scenarios and their possible differential effects on behavior. A discussion period designed to recap and correlate the three talks and their relevance to best-practice will cap the presentation.
Keyword(s): applied, conditioned reinforcement
The Many Facets of Secondary Reinforcers
KATHY SDAO (Bright Spot Dog Training)
Abstract: Secondary reinforcers are a category of consequences with many facets. They are said to bridge stimuli, mark events, increase contiguity, span physical distance, cross sensory modes, end the behavior, keep the behavior going, and provide endless variety and novelty: all phenomena that boost our effectiveness when training animals. With the goal of getting the most out of all training interactions and improving training outcomes across species, this presentation briefly discusses the function of secondary reinforcers and outlines the benefits of using secondary reinforcers in both acquisition and maintenance of responding across species, purposes and training contexts. Also reviewed will be corresponding conditioning strategies practiced to maximize the benefits of secondary reinforcers. Consideration of species-specific behavior and predispositions, of motivating operations relevant to the conditioning context, of competing reinforcers, of the terminal response and of the training context will be discussed as important to the efficacy of the use and conditioning of new reinforcers.
Blazing Clickers
SUSAN G. FRIEDMAN (Utah State University)
Abstract: Clickers, whistles and other conditioned reinforcers are valuable tools that help trainers communicate to animals the precise response they need to repeat to get a food reinforcer. When a conditioned reinforcer is reliably paired with a well-established backup reinforcer then communication is clear, motivation remains high and behaviors are learned quickly. However, when a click isn’t systematically paired with a backup reinforcer, the communication becomes murky, as evidenced by decreased motivation, increased aggression, and weak performance. As the click begins to lose meaning because of repeated use without with a treat (i.e., blazing clickers), animals begin to search for other stimuli to predict their outcomes. While we may be able to get away with the occasional solo click, blazing clickers is not best training practice. When the secondary reinforcers used as event markers don’t carry information an animal can depend on, the result is undependable behavior. In this presentation five misconceptions leading to blazing clickers are discussed.
Conditioned Reinforcer Technology in Applied Settings
JENNIFER L. SOBIE (University of Illinois)
Abstract: The systematic use of conditioned reinforcement stimuli in shaping and maintaining behavior has revolutionized the field of animal training. The animal training market has been flooded with devices and books aimed at bringing this behavioral technology to the eager and receptive public. However, attention has been given the general use of Sr+ in behavior acquisition and maintenance as opposed to the technology of its use. Most literature assumes a Sr+ to primary reinforcer (SR+) ratio of 1/1, although quite often in practice this is not the case. Bridge and applied studies with animals in natural environments have shown that a change in the SR+ delivery from FR1 to greater than 1 may disrupt responding regardless of the fact that Sr+ presentation remains on a FR1 schedule. However, there has also been some indication that responding may recover. This presentation provides data on the long-term effects of changing Sr+/SR+ ratios on dog behavior shaped on a Sr+1/SR+1ratio and behavior shaped on a Sr+1/SR+ greater than 1 ratio, and the relevance of the acquisition schedule to these effects.



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