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 #365
CE Offered: BACB
Human Operant Work in Behavioral Momentum and Behavioral Economics
Monday, May 28, 2007
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
Madeleine CD
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Jason C. Bourret (New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Jason C. Bourret, Ph.D.

Ongoing research on behavioral momentum and behavioral economics continues to examine the generality of the momentum metaphor and the utility of behavioral economic analyses. The first study examined the effects of differing types of disrupter stimuli. The second evaluated momentum effects in a natural education environment. The third examined the effects of response effort manipulations on responding maintained by qualitatively different reinforcers on progressive-ratio schedules. The fourth evaluated a method to determine reinforcer value based on a unit-price analysis.

Behavioral Momentum in Children with Autism.
KAREN M. LIONELLO-DENOLF (University of Massachusetts Medical School, E.K. Shriver Center), William V. Dube (University of Massachusetts Medical School, E.K. Shriver Center)
Abstract: Behavioral momentum was examined in 3 low-functioning (mental age equivalent scores < 1.75 years) children diagnosed with autism. Stimuli were presented in the context of a computer game on two separate monitors in the Shriver Center automated teaching laboratory (Lionello-DeNolf & McIlvane, 2003). Reinforcers were snack foods. Two-minute Low (VI 15) and High (VI 5 with 2 reinforcers per delivery) components alternated (on different monitors) on a multiple schedule. Behavioral momentum was assessed with four different types of disrupters: pre-feeding plus inter-component interval reinforcer delivery, concurrent presentation of an alternative stimulus, concurrent presentation of a movie, and non-contingent verbal reinforcement delivered by an experimenter who entered the experimental space during the disruption tests. Resistance to change differed depending on the type of distracter used: with pre-feeding distracter, resistance was approximately equal under High and Low conditions; with an alternative stimulus distracter, there was greater resistance in the High condition; and with a movie presentation distracter, resistance tended to be greater in the High condition, with some exceptions. These data extend earlier findings with developmentally disabled children (Dube & McIlvane, 2001; Dube, McIlvane, Mazzitelli, & McNamara, 2003) by examining momentum in an environment free from social influences.
The Persistence of Task Performance in a Natural Learning Environment.
DIANA PARRY-CRUWYS (New England Center for Children), William H. Ahearn (New England Center for Children), William V. Dube (University of Massachusetts Medical School, E.K. Shriver Center)
Abstract: The behavioral momentum metaphor suggests that a behavior is more resistant to distraction when reinforced on a denser schedule of reinforcement in a multiple schedule. While most research in behavioral momentum has been conducted in laboratory or analogue settings, this experiment studied resistance to distraction in a natural educational environment. Six participants with developmental disabilities were presented with familiar activities for which responding was reinforced on a multiple VI VI schedule. For four participants, two familiar play activities were used, such as stringing beads, and for two participants, two familiar academic tasks were used. Each activity was reinforced with a different schedule. Baseline sessions consisted of either six or eight alternating components, three or four for each task. In the distracter sessions, a disrupting item was placed on the student’s desk during the activity in the final two components of each session. This was a test of behavioral persistence. Sessions were presented in a multielement design, alternating between baseline and distracter sessions. Responses in the distracter components were compared to within-session responding in baseline components and to baseline sessions. Results are consistent with the behavioral momentum effect for four out of six participants. IOA was collected in 100% of test sessions and was above 92% for each participant.
Using Progressive-Ratio Schedules to Measure the Reinforcing Effects of Stimuli under Differing Levels of Effort.
LINDSAY C. PETERS (University of Kansas), Jason C. Bourret (New England Center for Children), Jonathan Seaver (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: The paired-stimulus preference assessment (Fisher, Piazza, Bowman, Hagopian, Owen, & Slevin, 1992) may identify a hierarchy of relative preference but may not reflect that stimuli identified as low preferred may actually function as reinforcers. Progressive-ratio schedules have been used in both basic and applied research to measure the strength of reinforcers. Comparing responding on progressive-ratio schedules for qualitatively different reinforcers allows for a measure of the reinforcing efficacy of stimuli in both an absolute and relative sense. The purpose of the current research is to determine the effect of changes in response effort on responding maintained by qualitatively different reinforcers on progressive-ratio schedules. After identifying stimuli of high- and low-preference on a paired-stimulus preference assessment, progressive-ratio schedules of reinforcement were arranged in a two-component multiple schedule in which responding was reinforced with high-preference stimuli in one component and low-preference stimuli in the other. The response measured was moving a weight from one target to another and effort was manipulated by changing the heaviness of the weight. Data were analyzed in terms of break points in responding, response rate and frequency, pre-ratio pauses, and work and demand functions. Results showed greater differentiation between response patterns produced by the qualitatively different reinforcers under lower levels of response effort.
Consumption and Response Output as a Function of Unit Price: The Effect of Cost and Benefit Components.
XERES DELMENDO (University of the Pacific), John C. Borrero (University of the Pacific), Kenneth Beauchamp (University of the Pacific), Noel A. Ross (University of the Pacific), Sandeep K. Sran (University of the Pacific)
Abstract: The purpose of the study was to develop a method that can be used to determine reinforcer value, using the unit price prediction that the rate of consumption (or obtained reinforcers) at a given price will be constant regardless of the response requirement and magnitude of reinforcer that make up the unit price. A free operant preference assessment was conducted with four children, followed by a reinforcer assessment to determine reinforcer efficacy. Following the reinforcer assessment, the unit price evaluation was conducted. The number of reinforcers and responses required were manipulated by varying the number of reinforcers available and the fixed-ratio requirement, respectively. Four to five different unit price values were evaluated for each child. Preliminary results showed that responding decreased as unit price increased for all four children. Furthermore, for one participant consumption was not equivalent given equal unit price values but differing FR and consumables received.



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