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 #347
CE Offered: BACB
Recent Issues in Choice and Preference
Monday, May 28, 2007
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Annie AB
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Stephanie A. Contrucci Kuhn (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Discussant: William L. Holcomb (New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Stephanie A. Contrucci Kuhn, Ph.D.

Preference Assessments have become an essential tool in the assessment and treatment of problem behavior. Over the past 20 years, the effectiveness and utility of multiple methods has been evaluated. Included in these studies are investigations into the validity of the various assessments. However, important questions remain. The three studies presented in this symposium address questions pertaining to the validity of different types of preference assessments, consistency of choices across assessments, and the accuracy of choice making behavior. In the first study, the efficacy of discrimination training to teach individuals with developmental disabilities to make auditory discriminations during symbolic preference assessments was evaluated. Results indicated that choice making improved for all three participants following discrimination training. In the second study, high preference items from full- and partial-array preference assessments were compared in a reinforcer assessment in order to assess the relative reinforcement value. Results indicated that although both full- and partial-array items initially functioned as reinforcers, the participants allocated more responding the full-array items when presented concurrently. In the final study, reinforcer assessments were used to validate the outcome of several preference assessment methods (single-stimulus, paired stimulus, and multiple stimulus without replacement). Results indicated discrepancies in rankings across the three methods and reinforcer assessments validated the results of only one or two of the preference assessment methods for 2 of the 3 participants. The results of these studies suggest that although preference assessments are vital tools in the assessment and treatment of problem behavior particular attention should be given to issues related to the validity of these procedures.

The Effects of Discrimination Training on Choice-Making Accuracy during Symbolic Preference Assessment Formats.
CHRISTINA M. VORNDRAN (Bancroft NeuroHealth), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston, Clear Lake)
Abstract: Research on choice-making among individuals with developmental disabilities has primarily focused on the identification and incorporation of preferred items and activities into the home and community environments of these individuals. Because of cognitive and communication limitations, some individuals with developmental disabilities require training to make choices that accurately reflect their preferences. Verbal choice methods are commonly used in everyday clinical practice; however, the accuracy of these methods for identifying actual preferences depends on the individual’s ability to make auditory discriminations. Discrimination training is a strategy commonly used to teach a variety of discriminations to individuals with developmental disabilities. However, no studies to date have evaluated the efficacy of discrimination training for teaching individuals with developmental disabilities to make auditory discriminations for the purpose of improving choice-making accuracy during symbolic preference assessments. The present study evaluated the direct and generalized effects of discrimination training on the choice-making abilities of three individuals with developmental disabilities. Results indicated that training was successful for improving choice-making accuracy for all three participants when a limited number of choices was presented. A generalization strategy of training multiple, choice exemplars was moderately successful in transferring the effects of training to choices in the context of a larger assessment.
Evaluation of High- and Low-Ranked Stimuli in a Choice Preference Assessment.
APHRODITE FOUNDAS MANGUM (The Marcus Institute), Henry S. Roane (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Munroe-Meyer Institute), Robert-Ryan S. Pabico (The Marcus Institute)
Abstract: Tarvella et al. (2000) found that stimuli that were ranked low (i.e., below 60% of trials) in a choice preference assessment functioned as effective reinforcers for adaptive behavior. However, a large body of literature suggests that, in general, high preference stimuli are more effective reinforcers than low preference stimuli. In the current study we conducted two choice preference assessments (based on Fisher et al., 1992). The first assessment (full array) consisted of ten stimuli. The second assessment (partial array) consisted of a subset of stimuli (i.e., those selected on fewer than 50% of trials). We then compared the reinforcing effectiveness of the top two stimuli from full-array assessment to the top two stimuli from the partial-array assessment. Following these two preference assessments, the least-preferred item, most-preferred item and control were compared as reinforcers using in-square or in-seat behavior as the target response. Both the full-array and partial-array stimuli functioned as reinforcers initially; however, when full- and partial-array items were presented concurrently the participants allocated more responding toward the full-array items relative to the partial-array items. Reliability data were collected on over 30% of all sessions and averaged over 90% for all dependent measures. These findings suggest that, although the reinforcing effectiveness of some stimuli may be masked by the inclusion of higher preference stimuli, high preference stimuli may be more effective reinforcers.
Validating Preference and Choice through Reinforcer Assessment.
ELIZABETH J. KELSEY (Northeastern University), Daniel Gould (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Individuals with developmental disabilities often lack the skills or the opportunities to make choices. When opportunities for choice are provided, it is important to ensure that the choices made are valid. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the validity of choices made during preference assessments for three adults with developmental disabilities. Standard single-stimulus, paired-stimulus and multiple-stimulus without replacement preference assessments were conducted for all participants using a variety of edible and activity items. Reinforcer assessments were then used to compare the validity of choices made across the different preference assessments. Preference hierarchies differed across preference assessment types for all participants. Results of the reinforcer assessment showed that for 2 of the 3 participants one or two of the preference assessments yielded valid results. Assessments for the third participant resulted in false negatives, that is, stimuli that functioned as reinforcers were not identified as preferred. Results were then used to prescribe a valid preference assessment method for future clinical application with each participant. This study suggests that careful selection of preference assessment methods is required to ensure that valid choices are made.



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