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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #197
CE Offered: BACB
Noncontingent Reinforcement, Token Economies, and Delay Discounting: A Long Road to Practical Application
Sunday, May 28, 2017
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 2B
Area: PRA/TBA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: James Nicholson Meindl (The University of Memphis)
CE Instructor: James Nicholson Meindl, Ph.D.
Abstract: A major goal of conducting research in applied behavior analysis is to develop or enhance interventions aimed at improving behavior in applied settings. A research-to-practice gap is said to exist when research in a given area is not translated into practice in applied settings. This symposium includes three literature reviews which evaluate existing support for the use of three distinct practices in applied settings. Two papers are reviews of the intervention literature on noncontingent reinforcement and token economies, respectively, in which research protocols were evaluated for applicability outside of experimental settings and for clarity and completeness of intervention component description. Findings indicate that, as currently researched, the procedures for both strategies may be impractical in applied settings or not described with replicable precision. The third paper is a review of methods used to measure delay discounting in children. Findings indicate that before delay discounting may be evaluated for its practical utility (i.e., used to inform intervention design), additional research is necessary to identify adaptations that improve assessment validity for child populations. The literature on each intervention and assessment strategy will be reviewed with a specific focus on practical application and replication, and directions for future research will be provided.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): delay discounting, literature review, noncontingent reinforcement, token economy
Noncontingent Reinforcement: An Evaluative Review of Procedures
JAMES NICHOLSON MEINDL (The University of Memphis), Komal Noordin (The University of Memphis)
Abstract: Noncontingent reinforcement is one of the most commonly used and well-researched interventions in applied behavior analytic literature. It is often a preferred intervention to decrease problem behavior because it relies on reinforcement rather than punishment, is considered relatively easy to implement, and does not require extensive training or monitoring. One criticism that has been leveled at noncontingent reinforcement is that although it is practical in a research context, it may not be as practical in applied settings and research is limited in some regards. By reviewing 128 participants across 58 articles, this literature review revealed that research on NCR is primarily conducted with children, in artificial settings, using dense schedules of reinforcement over short sessions, is not conducted for long periods of time, alternately includes an extinction component depending on behavior function, and rarely assesses social validity. The analysis revealed that many of the protocols used in experimental settings may make for difficult implementation in clinical settings. Specific concerns are identified and future direction proposed.
Token Economy: A Systematic Review of Procedural Variations and Descriptions
JONATHAN W. IVY (Penn State Harrisburg), James Nicholson Meindl (The University of Memphis), Eric Overley (University of Memphis), Kristen Robson (Achievement Center)
Abstract: The token economy is a well-established and widely used behavioral intervention. A token economy is comprised of six procedural components: the target response(s), a token that functions as a conditioned reinforcer, back-up reinforcers, and three-interconnected schedules of reinforcement. Despite decades of applied research, the extent to which the procedures of a token economy are described in complete and replicable detail has not been evaluated. Given the inherent complexity of a token economy, an analysis of the procedural descriptions may benefit future token economy research and practice. Articles published between 2000-2015 that included implementation of a token economy within an applied setting were identified and reviewed with a focus on evaluating the thoroughness of procedural descriptions. The results show that token economy components are regularly omitted or described in vague terms. Of the articles included in this analysis, only 19% (18 of 96 articles reviewed) included replicable and complete descriptions of all primary components. Missing or vague component descriptions could negatively affect future research or applied practice. Additionally, token economy procedural variations are presented. Recommendations are provided to improve component descriptions.
A Summary of Methods of Assessing Delay Discounting in Young Children
JOHANNA STAUBITZ (Vanderbilt University), Blair Lloyd (Vanderbilt University)
Abstract: Delay discounting is a process thought to underlie impulsive decision-making, and is associated with poor long-term outcomes including obesity, addiction, and gambling in adult populations. Given its predictive validity among adult populations, measuring delay discounting in young children may have utility for early identification of risk. However, methods typically used to assess delay discounting in adult populations may not be appropriate for young children who have less experience with money and delays. We reviewed the extant literature on delay discounting assessments including children under 13 years of age to determine (a) for whom delay discounting has been assessed, (b) what commodities, delays, magnitudes, and choice types have been used, and (c) how choice stimuli have been presented to children. In 51 identified studies, the majority of participants were children over six years of age, and were typically developing or had ADHD. Hypothetical money choices were most often used in assessments, but commodity magnitudes and delays varied widely. Future directions for research include identifying characteristics of children for whom hypothetical money choice assessments are valid, optimal magnitudes and delays for money choice assessments, and whether incorporating visual representation of commodities, magnitudes, and delays improves interpretability and predictive validity of assessment outcomes.



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