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 #86
CE Offered: BACB
Therapeutic Choices, Skill Acquisition, and Negative Reinforcement in Contexts of Aversive Stimuli and Delayed Consequences
Saturday, May 27, 2017
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 1
Area: DDA/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: John C. Borrero (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Discussant: Kevin C. Luczynski (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
CE Instructor: Jolene R. Sy, Ph.D.
Abstract: These four papers cover different aspects of behavior analytic approaches to establishing therapeutic choices and/or teaching new skills in the context of aversive stimuli, delayed consequences, or both. They are organized in terms of most translational to most applied. The first paper is a translational examination of a novel way to assess the quality of negative reinforcement using progressive-ratio schedules. The second paper also includes an assessment of stimulus (task) aversiveness and uses those results in a therapeutic intervention along with delays to tasks to decrease impulsive choices (i.e., selection of a less-aversive task that must be completed immediately over a more-aversive task that must be completed following a delay) in children. The third paper uses delay to reinforcement to shift children’s choices from high-technology to low-technology leisure activity choices. The fourth paper incorporates delayed feedback as part of a package intervention to teach writing skills to individuals with developmental disabilities within the context of a college course.
Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): Delayed Consequences, Progressive Ratio, Skill Acquisition, Therapeutic Choice
The Use of Progressive-Ratio Schedules to Assess Negative Reinforcers
(Applied Research)
Sarah E. Bloom (University of South Florida), LINDSEY SLATTERY (University of South Florida), Bryon Miller (University of South Florida)
Abstract: The quality of potential positive reinforcers has been assessed using a variety of methods. However, few assessments have been developed to examine the quality of potential negative reinforcers. It is difficult to arrange assessments using simultaneously presented aversive stimuli that a participant could select for removal because the stimuli may have an additive effect. Progressive ratio (PR) schedules may allow for assessment of the quality parameter of negative reinforcers by creating a hierarchy of stimuli based on the ratio schedule reached for each stimulus. We used an assessment to identify auditory stimuli that are not preferred and then assessed their quality individually using PR schedules with typically developing college students. We obtained mean break points for each stimulus and ranked negative reinforcers accordingly. The stimulus with the highest and lowest mean break points were defined as the high- and low-quality escape stimuli, respectively. Finally, we evaluated whether or not the removal of these stimuli served as negative reinforcers during a reinforcer assessment. Results will be discussed in terms of relationships between PR schedules and reinforcer assessments. Conditions under which correspondence and non-correspondence outcomes were obtained will be described.

Assessment and Treatment of Self Control With Aversive Events by Children With Developmental Disabilities

(Applied Research)
ALLEN PORTER (Kennedy Krieger Institute; University of Maryland,), Jolene R. Sy (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)

Self-control can be defined as choosing a smaller, immediate aversive event over a larger, delayed aversive event. Children with developmental disabilities have been found to respond impulsively when given the choice between aversive events that differ based on magnitude and difficulty. However, other variables may affect aversiveness (e.g., qualitative differences between tasks). To directly assess and subsequently treat self-control choice involving aversive events that are qualitatively different, it is necessary to assess relative task aversiveness. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to (a) empirically identify a hierarchy of aversive tasks for three individuals with developmental disabilities by evaluating their average latency to avoidant responding when presented with each task, (b) assess baseline levels of self control, and (c) introduce an empirically validated treatment, which involves adding a delay to both tasks. For three individuals with developmental disabilities, low- and high-aversive tasks were identified, and each participant initially made impulsive choices (i.e., chose the delayed, high-aversive task). Following treatment, each participant made more self-control choices. Results suggest that there may be a need to broaden the types of variables included in self-control assessments and interventions.

Effects of Delay to Reinforcement on Selections for High-Tech and Low-Tech Leisure Items
(Applied Research)
KARIE JOHN (University of South Florida), Andrew L. Samaha (University of South Florida), Sarah E. Bloom (University of South Florida), Jessica Moore (University of South Florida)
Abstract: Many children are exposed to excessive technology, such as games accessed via iPads or other mobile devices. Overuse of technology-based toys may lead to health issues including obesity, attention deficits, and sleep disorders. Research has shown that parameters of reinforcement, such as quality, magnitude, and delay, may influence how children allocate their choices. One way to drive choice away from high-tech toys may be to arrange delays to reinforcement following such selections and immediate reinforcement for an alternative response. Kim, Bloom, and Samaha (2016) found that children’s preference could be shifted using such an approach. The current study replicates those findings with individuals with diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and uses a rapid assessment approach to determining therapeutic delays (i.e., delays necessary to switch preference away from high-tech toys). Results suggest that adding a therapeutic delay following selection of high-tech toys lead decreases in the number of choice trials in which high-tech toys were selected.

Multicomponent Intervention for Improving Writing Skills of Adults With Intellectual Disabilities in a University Classroom

(Applied Research)
JOLENE R. SY (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Mariana I. Castillo (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Klaire Williams (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)

Teaching adults with intellectual disabilities writing skills in the context of a college class ensures a learning context more typical to that experienced by same-age peers, while simultaneously promoting the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in a university setting and capitalizing on the educational opportunities afforded by integrating same-age peers (i.e., undergraduate students) in the classroom. We used a package intervention to teach a class of seven adults with intellectual disabilities to write cover letters for job applications. The treatment package included lecture with a modified classroom response system, cover letter templates, delayed feedback on prior letters, and general praise for on-task behavior delivered by undergraduate student peers. Although the treatment was successful, the independent contribution of each component (e.g., delayed feedback) is unknown. Nevertheless, results indicate that adults with intellectual disabilities can and should be integrated into university settings. Recommendations for increasing the feasibility of such educational practices will be discussed.




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