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.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Symposium #67
CE Offered: BACB
Translational Research on Economic, Choice and Cost Variables Across Multiple Applied Contexts
Saturday, May 24, 2008
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
Chicago & Alton
Area: EAB/CBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Iser Guillermo DeLeon (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
CE Instructor: Iser Guillermo DeLeon, Ph.D.

The studies collected in this symposium examine a variety of quantitative variables, based on principles of behavioral economics and the matching equation, as they apply to the behavior of individuals in applied contexts. The general emphasis is on how choice responding is influenced by basic process through manipulations of unit price, opportunity costs, schedule-correlated stimuli, and the like. The impact of these variables is examined across an array of applied contexts that includes educational settings, clinical settings for individuals with developmental disabilities, and in the treatment of substance abuse. Collectively, the studies exemplify how findings imported from basic behavioral science can be brought to bear on clinically relevant behavior in these contexts.

Assessing Sensitivity to Changes in Unit Price.
FRANCES A. PERRIN (Bancroft NeuroHealth), Patrick R. Progar (Caldwell College), Ralph Spiga (Temple University)
Abstract: The purpose of the present study was to compare the effect of changes in the unit price of edible items as a function of both magnitude and distance from the participant. Unit price refers to the cost or the price of an item based on the unit of issue. Unit prices are ubiquitous in grocery stores and function as an important source of information to consumers. For example, while a larger amount of something (e.g., coffee) is more expensive in absolute terms than a smaller amount of the same item, the larger value may cost less per ounce and hence it’s unit price would be less, thereby representing a better value. The participants were 4 adolescents diagnosed with developmental disabilities residing in a neurobehavioral unit. Highly preferred edible items were identified through a series of multiple stimulus with replacement preference assessments. The item identified as most preferred was used in the present study. Sensitivity to unit price was manipulated by providing two choices concurrently that differed in the distance from the participant and the magnitude of the reinforcer (e.g., 2 Fritos @ 18 in vs 1 @ 3 in). The results indicated that some of the participants appeared sensitive to changes in unit price. However, one participant appeared insensitive to unit price, but rather seemed to make choices based on minimizing response effort. Future research should examine whether one dimension consistently overshadows the other dimension. For example, magnitude of reinforcement may overshadow proximity of reinforcement for some individuals, even when the more proximate item is a better value.
Demand Curves for Common Reinforcers Vary with the Functional Similarity of Concurrently Available Alternatives.
MELISSA J. ALLMAN (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Michelle A. Frank-Crawford Crawford (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Meagan Gregory (University of Florida), Mandy M. Triggs (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Abbey Carreau (Kennedy Krieger Institutue)
Abstract: Demand and work functions for concurrently available stimuli were examined in 5 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities under two conditions: when the two stimuli were functionally similar (e.g., two food items) and when they were functionally dissimilar (e.g., food and a toy). Choices between stimuli were first assessed under concurrent FR 1 FR 1 schedules and then under schedule arrangements in which the response requirements were held constant for one stimulus but increased across phases for the other stimulus (e.g., Conc FR1 FR2, Conc FR1 FR5, etc.). Results suggested that when a similar reinforcer was concurrently available, consumption of the reinforcer associated with the increasing cost declined more rapidly than it did when a dissimilar reinforcer was concurrently available. These results concur with behavioral economic research suggesting that demand for a commodity is more elastic when available alternatives provide a similar form of stimulation (i.e., are more substitutable). The results are discussed in terms of their implications for the selective use of reinforcers in training or treatment procedures for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Evaluating Pharmacological and Behavioral Interventions: A Behavioral Economic Approach.
RALPH SPIGA (Temple University), Amy Wells (Temple University), Deborah Anne Haas (Headsprout)
Abstract: This presentation describes research applying behavioral economic principles, exponential demand analysis, to assessing efficacy of psychosocial interventions. Nicotine dependent smokers were assigned randomly to groups reimbursed with differing monetary amounts for CO < 15 ppm. The monetary values were treated as opportunity costs. An opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative, e.g. smoking vs monetary payment for abstinence. In one study pregnant nicotine dependent smokers were assigned randomly to contingency management and a psychosocial interventions or contingency management alone. In another, nicotine dependent smokers were assigned to nicotine gum, nicotine gum and psychosocial interventions and a psychosocial intervention. Exponential demand curves demonstrated that psychosocial treatments interacted at the highest opportunity costs. Discussion extends these principle and procedures to other applied settings and illustrates their application by reference to case studies. The PA Department of Health supported this research.
Schedule vs. Stimulus Control over Biased Responding to Difficult Academic Tasks.
BRIAN K. MARTENS (Syracuse University), Derek D. Reed (Syracuse University)
Abstract: A constant preference for one alternative over another not accounted for by reinforcement is generally referred to as “biased” responding. We produced biased responding in three children’s problem completion rates by increasing the difficulty of math problems required to earn reinforcement at one of two workstations. At both workstations, points exchangeable for rewards were delivered for correct problem completion according to signaled variable-interval schedules. Because reinforcer delivery at each workstation was signaled, we were able to evaluate degree of schedule versus stimulus control over responding by computing discrimination indices. When problem difficulty was equal, relative rates of problem completion appeared to be schedule controlled with discrimination indices near .50 or below. When problem difficulty was unequal, all three participants showed a bias away from the more difficult workstation. This bias was associated with discrimination indices approaching 1.0 at the more difficult workstation as responding came under control of the schedule-correlated discriminative stimulus (i.e., participants completed problems at this workstation only when reinforcement was signaled). These results lend further evidence that response effort contributes to deviations from matching in applied settings, and suggest that increases in response effort may lead to discriminated responding at the more effortful alternative.



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