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.


33rd Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2007

Event Details

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Symposium #33
CE Offered: BACB
Toward an Analysis of Variables that Affect Preference and Reinforcer Assessment Outcomes: Part 2
Saturday, May 26, 2007
1:00 PM–2:20 PM
Edward D
Area: CBM/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Gary M. Pace (The May Institute)
CE Instructor: Gary M. Pace, Ph.D.

The identification of potent reinforcers is a critical component of any behavior change program. Systematic investigations of the variables that affect preference and reinforcer assessment outcomes continue to be an active area research, and a topic of interest to many practiceners of applied behavior analysis. The papers in this symposium assess the effects of several procedures on the outcome of preference and reinforcer assessments. These variables include delayed selection, characteristics of reinforcers (quality, magitude and delay), time since preference assessment, and the combination of preference and reinforcer assessments. The papers utilize a variety of participants including individuals with developmental disabilities, preschoolers, and individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome. These studies serve to highlight the range of variables, within several populations, that can affect the outcome of preference and reinforcer assessments.

The Effects of Delayed and Probabilistic Outcomes on the Preferences of Individual Preschools' Preferences in a Group Context.
STACY A. LAYER (University of Kansas), Gregory P. Hanley (University of Kansas), Nicole Heal (University of Kansas), Jeffrey H. Tiger (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Effective methods for determining individuals's preferences for both discrete items (foods, toys) and contexts (interventions, teaching practices) are administered to children one at a time, thus prohibiting an important application of preference assessment methodology - to simultaneously determine preferences of multiple children. This study sought to determine the accuracy and efficiency of an assessment format in which selection outcomes were delayed and probalistic, unavoidable features of an assessment designed to simultaneously determine context preferences of multiple children. During the single arrangement, preference hierarchies were established by having a child repeatedly select from among several foods and sequentially restricting preferred items from the array. After being taught the associations between colored stickers and the same food item, group assessments were conducted with 3 children simultaneously, in which each child chose a sticker, and all children received the food correlated with a randomly selected sticker. Interobserver agreement data were collected on 100% of sessions and averaged 97.6%. Data analysis revealed that variability was not imposed on preference hierarchies by the group arrangement, and that the group assessment was associated with less selection variability for most of the participants. Thus, the group assessment is posited as an accurate and efficient arrangement for determining preferences.
Effects of Quality, Magnitude, and Delay on Selection of Food Reinforcers in Individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome.
JESSICA L. THOMASON (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida), Claudia L. Dozier (University of Florida), Pamela L. Neidert (University of Florida)
Abstract: One of the most prominent behavioral characteristics of the Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is hyperphagia, which leads to morbid obesity and a number of related health problems. Some reports have suggested that the food preferences of individuals with PWS differ from those of individuals with other developmental disabilities. The current study compares the relative influence of reinforcer characteristics such as quality, magnitude, and the delay to delivery on choices made by individuals diagnosed with PWS and those diagnosed with other developmental disabilities. First, an assessment is conducted to determine which reinforcer characteristic (quality, magnitude, or delay) is most influential over choices among concurrently-available vocational or academic tasks. Next, reinforcer characteristics are manipulated in an attempt to shift preference toward another reinforcer dimention. For example, response allocation towards immediately-available reinforcers might be shifted by gradually increasing delays to reinforcer delivery. Results are discussed in terms of (a) similarities and differences among the controlling variables of choice in individuals with and without PWS, and (b) the implications for the assessment and treatment of dietary management and food-related problem behaviors.
Do Changes in Preference Predict Changes in Performance?
CARRIE M. DEMPSEY (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida), Jennifer Lynn Hammond (University of Florida)
Abstract: Results from several studies have shown that preference for reinforcers may vary over time, but the extent to which changes in preference and performance are correlated has not been well established. We examined whether initial preferences established through a paired-stimulus procedure changed during probes (using a multiple-stimulus without replacement [MSWO] procedure) and, if so, whether changes in preference were reflected in performance under single- and concurrent-reinforcement schedules. Results showed that preference changed frequently on a daily basis; nevertheless, responding for the originally preferred stimulus remained high under single-schedule conditions. More surprising was the fact that participants consistently allocated more responding to the originally preferred stimulus than to the daily preferred stimulus under the concurrent schedule in spite of several manipulations designed to shift response allocation. Potential reasons for and implications of these results will be discussed.
Identifying Reinforcers: Preference-Plus Reinforcer Assessment versus Progressive Ratio Assessment.
ANGIE CHRISTINE QUERIM (University of Florida), Joseph M. Vedora (BEACON Services), Gary M. Pace (The May Institute), Daniel Gould (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Preference and reinforcer assessments are essential to identifying reinforcers to be used in behavior change procedures. In addition, progressive ratio schedules can be used to examine the reinforcing properties of a particular reinforcer by thinning the schedule of reinforcement. Two developmentally disabled adolescents participated in 4 phases of preference and reinforcer assessments. After establishing a preference hierarchy using an 8-item paired stimulus preference assessment, the two highest preferred and 2 lowest preferred edible items were examined in a single-operant reinforcer assessment. The same 4 items were then examined in a concurrent operants reinforcer assessment and compared to the traditional method of conducting a preference assessment followed by a reinforcer assessment. In the last phase another concurrent operants reinforcer assessment was conducted, during which the schedule requirements were increased contingent on responding. The concurrent operant and reinforcer assessments results were similar to that of the preference assessment and single operant reinforcer assessment. During the progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement response, allocation was higher toward the more highly preferred items as the schedules increased. The data from this study suggest that a concurrent reinforcer assessment may be more efficient in determining reinforcers and progressive ratio schedules may be useful in determining the efficacy of a particular reinforcer.



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