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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #441
Timeout Three Ways: Punishment, Avoidance, and in Transitions
Monday, May 26, 2014
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
W175c (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Ezra Garth Hall (West Virginia University)

Timeout can be used to decrease or maintain responding to varying degrees depending on the schedule of presentation and on the prevailing context that maintains responding. In this symposium, current research involving three different approaches to studying timeout will be presented. Ezra Hall will present results from response-dependent and response-independent schedules of variable-ratio and variable-interval timeout punishment with pigeons as subjects. August Holtyn will present data on avoidance responding of rats using schedules of response-independent food delivery with and without a limited hold on consumption. The research presented in these two talks will extend knowledge of the conditions under which timeout reduces or maintains responding. Dean Williams will present research where timeouts were used to decrease aberrant behaviors of participants with severe developmental disabilities during rich to lean transitions. This talk extends the use of timeout beyond the punishment and avoidance paradigms. Collectively, these three talks clarify how the behavioral effects of timeout depend on the experimental and environmental context in which they are arranged.

Variable-Ratio and Variable-Interval Schedules of Timeout from Positive Reinforcement
EZRA GARTH HALL (West Virginia University), Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: Timeout is a punishment procedure commonly used by parents, teachers, and applied practitioners to effectively reduce problem behavior of children. Despite the frequent use of timeout, little basic research has systematically examined different schedule effects of timeout from positive reinforcement, specifically variable-ratio (VR) and variable-interval (VI) schedules. In the current study, six pigeons (two groups of three) responded on a two-component multiple schedule whereby a component of either a VR (range 2 to 20) or VI (range 2 s to 45 s) schedule of 20-s timeouts alternated with a yoked-time (YT) timeout component across conditions. The YT component delivered timeouts independent of responding according to the distribution of inter-timeout-intervals in the preceding component. A VI 45-s schedule of 3-s access to food maintained responding during baseline and timeout conditions. Response rates were lowest compared to baseline levels at the most rich VR timeout schedules (VR 2 and 5). Response rates during VI timeout were varied across timeout conditions and pigeons. The richest VR and VI timeout conditions are currently being replicated within subject and between groups. Results thus far indicate that VR schedules of timeout decrease responding more than VI schedules of timeout.

Avoidance of Timeout from Response-Independent Schedules of Sucrose Water With and Without a Limited Hold on Consumption

AUGUST F. HOLTYN (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Michael Perone (West Virginia University)

Research on the aversiveness of timeout from lean and rich schedules of food delivery has yielded discrepant findings. In some studies, a lean schedule produced higher avoidance rates than a rich schedule, while other studies have shown the opposite. The present study considered whether the conflicting results may be attributed to procedural details: At issue was whether a limited hold on consumption engenders behavior that competes with avoidance. Across conditions, eight rats pressed a lever to avoid timeout from sucrose water delivered according to variable-time schedules ranging from 0.5 to 8 min. Timeouts were scheduled every 30 s and lasted for 30 s. Pressing the lever during time-in postponed the next timeout by 30 s. In the limited-hold conditions, a dipper of sucrose water was raised for 3 s. In the unlimited-hold conditions, the dipper was raised until the rats head entered and exited the magazine. Whether access to the dipper was limited or unlimited, avoidance increased as the rate of sucrose delivery was raised. The aversiveness of timeout from a schedule of response-independent food is directly related to the richness of the schedule, and this relation is manifest when a wide range of food deliveries are scheduled.


Time-out Between Activities Reduces Problem Behaviors during Transitions from High-Preference to Low-Preference Activities in Persons with IDD

DEAN C. WILLIAMS (The University of Kansas), Carol Cummings (The University of Kansas), Katie Hine (The University of Kansas)

In our translational research on aberrant behaviors in persons with developmental disabilities, we have been developing laboratory models for treatments of these behaviors during transitions. In the current experiment, subjects with severe developmental disabilities were assessed for relative preference across several different tasks or activities. The most preferred and least preferred activities were then arranged to alternate unpredictably. Self-injurious, aggressive, and tantrum behaviors were recorded during all transitions. These aberrant behaviors occurred differentially in transitions from highly preferred to less preferred activities. In previous studies, imposing a 30-s time-out during each transition reduced aberrant behaviors in a laboratory setting using money as reinforcement. In the current study we imposed the time-out period between each transition between activities. Aberrant behaviors were reduced in 3 of 4 subjects. Little aberrant behavior was seen during the time-out periods. The results help clarify that the transition periods from relatively preferred to less-preferred activities are aversive and time-outs during these periods reduce the aversiveness of the transition.




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