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.


11th Annual Autism Conference; San Juan, Puerto Rico; 2017

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #6

The Concept of Automatic Reinforcement: Implications for Assessment and Intervention

Wednesday, February 1, 2017
1:30 PM–2:20 PM
San Juan Grand Ballroom
Area: AUT; Domain: Basic Research
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Timothy R. Vollmer, Ph.D.
Chair: Wayne W. Fisher (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
TIMOTHY R. VOLLMER (University of Florida)
Timothy R. Vollmer received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1992. From 1992 until 1996 he was on the psychology faculty at Louisiana State University. From 1996 to 1998 he was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. He returned to the University of Florida in 1998 and is now a Professor of Psychology. His primary area of research is applied behavior analysis, with emphases in developmental disabilities, autism, reinforcement schedules, and parenting. He has published over 140 articles and book chapters related to behavior analysis. He is an ABAI fellow, he was the recipient of the 1996 B. F. Skinner New Researcher award from the American Psychological Association (APA), and received another APA award in August, 2004, for significant contributions to applied behavior analysis. He was the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis from 2014-2016.

A great deal of emphasis has been placed on socially mediated reinforcement contingencies maintaining problem behavior displayed by individuals with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities. However, there is strong evidence that some problem behavior occurs and maintains in the absence of social reinforcement contingencies. In fact, most repetitive stereotypies appear to be maintained in the absence of social reinforcement. To the extent such behavior is operant, and to the extent it is not socially reinforced, it is maintained by automatic reinforcement. The presenter will review origins and historical usage of the term "automatic reinforcement," scientific implications of the concept, and clinical implications for behavioral assessment and treatment. He will also present research from his applied laboratories, including published studies and work in progress.

Target Audience:

Certified behavior analysts, licensed psychologists, graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) define “automatic reinforcement;” (2) list at least two possible interventions for dangerous behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement; (3) identify functional analysis outcomes indicating that behavior is maintained by automatic reinforcement; (4) describe the historical usage of “automatic reinforcement” in the field of behavior analysis; (5) identify at least one possible future direction for behavior analytic research on automatic reinforcement.



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