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 #368
CE Offered: BACB
Current Issues in Negative Reinforcement and Applied Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 26, 2014
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
W187ab (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Joseph Michael Lambert (Vanderbilt University)
CE Instructor: Joseph Michael Lambert, Ph.D.

Negative reinforcement is an important area for applied researchers but it poses certain challenges to understanding and examining its effects on behavior. These three studies examine different aspects of negative reinforcement that are relevant to applied behavior analysis. The first presentation asks whether allowing children with disabilities and escape-maintained problem behavior to delay demands using a functional communication response will reduce problem behavior once those demands are re-presented. The second presentation examines whether individuals are equally sensitive to reinforcement parameters within positive and negative reinforcement contexts, or whether sensitivity can vary according to the type of reinforcement contingency. The implication of this question determines the degree to which parameter sensitivity assessments can be considered valid across functions. The third presentation reveals the degree to which conducting a systematic demand assessment prior to a functional analysis avoids false-negative findings for escape functions. Together, these presentations provide a practical and theoretically interesting approach to current issues in negative reinforcement and applied behavior analysis.

Keyword(s): delayed demands, demand assessment, Negative reinforcement, parameter sensitivity

Effects of Delaying Demands on Escape-maintained Problem Behavior

DANIEL CLARK (Kennedy Krieger Institute, University of Maryland Baltimore County), Sarah E. Bloom (University of South Florida), Megan A. Boyle (Utah State University)

A common suggestion for caregivers of individuals who engage in escape-maintained problem behavior is to provide the option to delay having to complete non-preferred tasks. However, it is unknown whether this eliminates problem behavior or merely delays problem behavior until the time at which the task is unavoidable. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which allowing participants to delay non-preferred tasks decreases problem behavior when those tasks are re-presented. Two children participated in this study: one six-year-old male with a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and one eight-year-old male with a diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome. We compared levels of problem behavior that occurred during unavoidable tasks to those that occurred during tasks that participants postponed using a functional communication response. Results showed that the percentage of unavoidable demands resulting in problem behavior was higher when participants were allowed to postpone the task. Thus, the suggestion to allow individuals to delay having to complete non-preferred tasks may only postpone problem behavior and may in fact increase the percentage of unavoidable tasks that results in problem behavior.


Sensitivity of Human Choice to Manipulations of Parameters of Positive and Negative Sound Reinforcement

JOSEPH MICHAEL LAMBERT (Vanderbilt University), Sarah E. Bloom (University of South Florida), Cicely M. Nickerson (Utah State University), Casey Clay (Utah State University), Andrew L. Samaha (University of South Florida)

Evidence of the utility of parameter sensitivity assessments in the assessment and treatment of problem behavior is beginning to emerge. Although these assessments have been conducted to evaluate participant sensitivity to parameter manipulations in both positive and negative reinforcement paradigms, no convincing evidence currently exists demonstrating that separate assessments of positive and negative reinforcement are required. The purpose of the current investigation was to determine whether positive and negative reinforcement processes have differential effects on human response allocation when parameters of responding and reinforcement are manipulated. Three undergraduate students participated in a series of assessments designed to identify preferred and aversive sounds with similar reinforcing values. Following sound identification, therapists conducted parameter sensitivity assessments for both positive and negative reinforcers. Parameter manipulations influenced behavior in the same way across reinforcement processes for two participants. However, for one participant, the way in which parameter manipulations influenced behavior differed according to the reinforcement process. Thus, for at least some individuals, positive and negative reinforcement processes may not always influence behavior in identical ways. Clinical and theoretical implications will be discussed.

Utility of a Latency-Based Assessment of Demands Prior to Functional Analyses
JOSLYN CYNKUS MINTZ (Little Leaves Behavioral Services), Nathan Call (Marcus Autism Center), Andrea R. Reavis (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: Functional assessments (FA) are frequently a key element in developing treatments to decrease problem behaviors. It is common practice to systematically assess an individual’s preference for potential positive reinforcers prior to beginning the FA. In contrast, negative reinforcers are commonly conducted at random or by asking caregivers. Call, Pabico, & Lomas, (2009) described a systematic demand assessment to identify the demands most (i.e., high-aversive task) and least (low-aversive task) likely to evoke problem behavior. Following the assessment, a FA was conducted with two demand conditions. For one of the participants, problem behavior was observed in the high-aversive condition and not the low-aversive condition. These results raise the question of the importance of a demand assessment to avoid a false-negative finding for an escape function. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify the likelihood of a false-negative finding. From a review of archival data, the FA of individual’s problem behavior used to identify an escape function that included two demand conditions was examined for a false-negative finding. Results showed that a false-negative finding for an escape function would have occurred for two-thirds of participants if only the low-aversive condition had been conducted.



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