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 #91
CE Offered: BACB
Advances in Translational Research in Applied Behavior Analysis
Saturday, May 27, 2017
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 2C
Area: PRA/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Javier Virues Ortega (The University of Auckland)
Discussant: Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida)
CE Instructor: Javier Virues Ortega, Ph.D.

Some authors claim that over the last decades the experimental and applied analyses of behavior have become disconnected. However, a thorough analysis of the literature shows that this trend toward insularity has been somewhat reversed over the last decade by an emphasis on translational research. Three factors could account for a change in trend toward more basic�applied interaction. First, the rise of functional analysis methodology that is used to identify the contingencies that generate and maintain problem behavior. Second, the editorial leadership of JABA and JEAB has prompted attention toward basic research of potentially applied relevance. Finally, basic researchers are increasingly urged by funding agencies to strengthen the translational potential of their work. Above all, translational research is essential to a cohesive behavior analysis. The present symposium presents a range of studies from four different labs under the common theme of translational research. Specifically, presenters will discuss empirical translational work in the following areas: differential outcomes effect (McCormack), the signaling effect of reinforcers (Cowie), delayed reinforcement (Fernandez), and vicarious punishment (Koehler). These studies provide an overview of current translational research.

Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): Delayed reinforcement, Differential outcomes, Translational research, Vicarious punishment

Emergence of Derived Relations Following Tact Training With the Differential Outcomes Procedure

(Applied Research)
JESSICA CATHERINE MCCORMACK (The University of Auckland), Douglas Elliffe (University of Auckland), Javier Virues Ortega (The University of Auckland)

The differential outcomes procedure has been found to enhance conditional discrimination learning in animals and humans. In conditional discrimination learning, the subjects learns to make one response in the presence of stimulus A (the discriminative stimulus) and another in the presence of stimulus B. By pairing each discriminative stimulus with a unique reward or reinforcer it provides an addition cue to correct responding. This can lead to faster and more accurate learning, as well as the development of equivalence relations. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that reinforcers can become part of the relational frame of discriminative stimuli. Thus, the differential outcomes procedure provides an opportunity to evaluate the extent to which differential reinforcers can induce distinct emergent relationships. In the present study, we taught novel labels to four boys with developmental or intellectual disability. Three of the four boys met mastery sooner in the differential outcomes condition relative to the variable outcomes condition. In addition, we tested for the emergence of equivalence relations, and found that stimulus-outcome or response-outcome relations emerged in three out of four students. Three of the participants participated in a subsequent transfer phase where we introduced novel stimuli requiring the same vocal response. Only two of the boys were able to meet mastery criteria for the new stimuli and both met mastery sooner in the differential outcomes condition. The study provides evidence for the effectiveness of the differential outcomes procedure in children with disabilities and provide an empirical basis for the addition of differential outcomes in behaviour acquisition programs.


Reinforcers Control Behaviour Because of What They Signal About the Immediate Future

(Basic Research)
SARAH COWIE (University of Auckland, New Zealand), Jessica Catherine McCormack (The University of Auckland), Paula Hogg (The University of Auckland), Christopher A. Podlesnik (Florida Institute of Technology), Douglas Elliffe (University of Auckland), Katrina J. Phillips (University of Auckland), Javier Virues Ortega (The University of Auckland)

The assumption that reinforcers strengthen behavior forms the foundation of many behavior-analytic interventions. However, recent basic research suggests that reinforcers control behavior because of what they signal about events that are likely to occur in the immediate future, rather than because they strengthen the behavior they follow. We extended an experimental paradigm used with non-human animals to study reinforcer control of choice in children. Seven typically developing children and one child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder played a game where opening one of two drawers would result in a reinforcer. The probability of the next reinforcer being obtained for opening the same drawer as had produced the last reinforcer was varied across conditions. Generally, children chose the drawer more likely to produce the next reinforcer, even on occasions when a different response had been reinforced in the preceding trial. This finding suggests that strengthening may be an unnecessary construct, and that a better understanding of how appetitive consequences control behaviour may be achieved using an alternative framework.


Parametric Analysis of Delayed Reinforcement in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
NATHALIE FERNANDEZ (University of Florida), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida), Yanerys Leon (Florida Institute of Technology), Elizabeth Schieber (University of Florida)

Recent research on the effects of delayed reinforcement on response maintenance in children with ASD suggests that reinforcer delays degrade response maintenance at delay values that varied from 6 to 120 seconds (Leon, Borrero, and DeLeon, 2016). However, this preparation examined the effects of delays under conditions in which no programmed alternatives to target responding were available, which seems unrealistic in relation to what a child might encounter in natural environment. In the present study, we first compared response maintenance with no programmed reinforcement in the presence and absence of freely available alternatives. We then added reinforcement for responding and parametrically increased the delay to reinforcement while retaining the freely available alternative. The results suggest that arranging a concurrently available alternative activity makes children less likely to persist in the absence of reinforcement, but performances do not deteriorate at markedly lower delays than previously observed if alternative activities remain present. Subsequent analyses compare whether this remains true for primary and conditioned reinforcers.

Examination of Vicarious Punishment Effects
(Applied Research)
LEAH JULIA KOEHLER (University of Florida), Brian A. Iwata (University of Florida)
Abstract: Vicarious reinforcement and, to a lesser extent, punishment are well-known topics covered in texts on behavior analysis, although relatively little research has identified the determinants of these effects. The purpose of this study was twofold: (a) first, to replicate the general findings of Van Houten et al. (1982), who found that reprimands delivered to one subject influenced the behavior of another, and (b) second, to examine the effects of both positive and negative vicarious punishment. Four individuals with developmental disabilities participated. No subjects demonstrated consistent sensitivity to the vicarious punishment arrangement prior to exposure to direct punishment. Following exposure to direct punishment, results were mixed (see attached graph for one subject whose data showed a vicarious punishment effect [VP+ and VP-] following but not prior to direct exposure). These data indicate that exposure to direct punishment contingencies in a specific context may be necessary to produce responding under vicarious arrangements. Clinical implications of the findings are discussed.



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