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 #252
CE Offered: BACB
Adjustment to Change
Sunday, May 25, 2014
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
W194a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Discussant: Cloyd Hyten (Aubrey Daniels International, Inc. )
CE Instructor: Andy Lattal, Ph.D.

Benjamin Franklin famously observed that the only certainties in life were death and taxes. Almost two hundred years later, Bob Dylan equally memorably observed how the times they are a’changin’. Both of these famous American aphorisms emphasize the inevitability of change in everyday life. The papers in this symposium address different aspects of how behavior adjusts following changes in reinforcement contingencies. Lattal’s paper addresses some of the methodological issues in assessing change in both laboratory settings and applications. Kincaid next shows the effects of adjusting changes in reinforcement rates as a function of the organism’s (pigeon’s) behavior to the dynamic situation. Phillips and Hagopian then will review how schedule thinning techniques have been applied in treatment. Finally, Daniels will discuss how organizations and individuals in organizations adjust to change, with a particular emphasis on the importance of shaping.

Keyword(s): behavior change, schedule thinning, shaping, transition

Adjustment to Rapid and Gradual Schedule Thinning Tranisitions

STEPHANIE L. KINCAID (West Virginia University), Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)

Reinforcement-based treatments for problem behavior often involve extremely rich reinforcement schedules that are impossible or impractical to implement long-term. A potential solution is to this problem is to decrease reinforcement, also known as “thinning” the schedule. Schedule thinning describes a variety of techniques for gradually and systematically conducting the rich-to-lean transition. The underlying assumption is that a more gradual transition between rich and lean schedules will result in more maintenance of behavior across the transition. When a schedule thinning procedure fails, a common solution is to back up to a richer schedule and then re-thin. We investigated an analog of these conditions in a reinforcement-rate titration procedure. Pigeons responded on two concurrent variable interval schedules programmed on the same response key in a changeover key arrangement. The programmed reinforcement rate of one of the component schedules was constant across sessions, while the reinforcement rate of the other schedule was adjusted daily based on performance. If responding was at or above 80% of the baseline response rate, the schedule was thinned. If responding was below this criterion, the schedule was enriched. Different rates of thinning were compared to determine whether more gradual shifts in reinforcement resulted in greater maintenance of behavior.


Schedule Thinning, Reinforcer Density, and Behavior Change

CARA L. PHILLIPS (Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Louis P. Hagopian (Kennedy Krieger Institute)

Reinforcement schedule thinning in the context of behavioral treatment offers an applied example of the effects of manipulating reinforcement density. Thinning is defined here as any procedure that involves decreasing the density of reinforcement within a treatment session. Examinations of the literature encompassing two common treatments for problem behavior, differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA; specifically, functional communication training, FCT) and fixed time delivery of reinforcement (i.e., noncontingent reinforcement, NCR) reveal a number of methods for thinning. These include: delay schedules, chain schedules, multiple schedules, and in the case of FCT, response restriction. Although each method has been demonstrated to be effective, thinning can often result in increases in problem behavior and decreases in appropriate behavior. Several examples from our research will be discussed that highlight issues with the ways in which reinforcement schedules for problem behavior and alternative behavior are manipulated in the pursuit of a terminal schedule that can be implemented outside of the research environment. We will also describe supplemental treatment components which somewhat ameliorate the effects of thinning. However, important questions remain. What is happening during thinning? Does changing the density of the reinforcer produce local extinction in some cases? What do schedule thinning-induced changes in behavior reveal about the mechanisms by which different treatments reduce behavior? We will attempt to address these questions by describing possible directions for future research.


The Analysis of Behavior Change

KENNON ANDY LATTAL (West Virginia University)

Behavior analysis traditionally is a science of the steady state, in which changes in a dependent variable are measured as the effect of an independent variable imposed on baseline behavior that has been trained for some time under a condition in which the independent variable was either not present or present at another value. Sprinkled throughout these numerous studies of steady-state behavior, however, are a few studies of behavior during the transition periods. These include studies of both response acquisition and extinction, adjunctive behavior, behavioral history, and resurgence. Some of these experiments involve a single transition, as in the transition to extinction, but others involve repeated transitions that result in a virtual steady state of transitional performance, as in the repeated acquisition of behavioral chains. In this paper I will review these various preparations for studying behavioral transitions and then consider some of the variables that attenuate and potentiate behavioral change when conditions change.

Some Problems of Organizational Change
AUBREY C. DANIELS (Aubrey Daniels International, Inc.)
Abstract: The workplace is a dynamic environment requiring flexibility and adjustment to both changes in competitor organizations and constantly changing technologies for carrying out the work. Organizational change involves many individuals and can involve many levels within an organization. The complexity of the task of helping organizations through transitions makes it particularly important to implement the changes correctly. Failures to do so can have cascading negative and long lasting effects that are corrected only with valuable time and human resources. In this paper I will discuss some of the problems of organizational change and how they might be minimized or trumped while still achieving organizational goals. Strategically, effective change begins with careful observation followed by the design of a flexible but targeted program of change. Tactically, shaping through the differential reinforcement of successive approximations is critical with both individuals and with groups within the organization.



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