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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #266
Social Reinforcement: Basic Findings and Applications
Sunday, May 24, 2020
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Salon B
Area: CBM/VRB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Cory Stanton (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: William C. Follette (University of Nevada, Reno)
CE Instructor: Thomas J. Waltz, Ph.D.

Humans are a eusocial species, especially sensitive to social contingencies. This sensitivity is observed at the earliest stages of development and persists throughout the lifespan, even in the presence of late-life neurodegenerative impairments. While social reinforcers are the most common reinforcers utilized in clinical applications, the behavior analytic literature is relatively sparse in its analysis of the quality of these reinforcers as they naturally occur and vary in a wide variety of interactions. This symposium will address social reinforcers from multiple vantage points: a review of the experimental analysis of social behavior, thought-provoking observations of parent-child interactions during acquisition of verbal skills, social histories as confounds within applied work in behavioral gerontology, and the challenge to measure interpersonal repertoires and the effects of social contingencies in clinical behavior analysis. The goal of the symposium is to draw attention to the ubiquitous nature of social reinforcers and social histories, identify gaps in knowledge, and discuss areas of future exploration for experimental, applied, and clinical research.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): interpersonal repertoires, lifespan, social contingencies, social reinforcement
Target Audience:

Scientist practitioners, BCBA-Ds, BCBAs, BCaBAs

Learning Objectives: 1. Participants will be able to describe conjugate reinforcement in relation to early verbal behavior skills acquisition. 2. Participants will be able to describe 3 social repertoires in older adults that can compromise the validity of preference and functional assessments. 3. Participants will be able to describe how data from a self-report instrument can be used to guide subsequent in-session functional analyses of social behavior.
A Review of the Experimental Analysis of Social Reinforcement
CLAUDIA DROSSEL (Eastern Michigan University), Thomas J. Waltz (Eastern Michigan University)
Abstract: Aristotle termed humankind “zoon politicon,” pointing to socially interdependent and transactional lives and ongoing attempts to influence each others’ behavior. Despite the ubiquitous nature of social reinforcement, experimental studies of social reinforcement are relatively rare, or they rely on histories and require sophisticated verbal repertoires with limited actual social contact (e.g., studies of social discounting). Furthermore, analyses that consider social reinforcers often fail to capture the nuanced features of human interactions that determine differential preference. The current paper will review existing behavior analytic work in the area. Acknowledging that much applied work in behavior analysis focuses on interventions in autism spectrum disorders, defined by social deficits and potential lack of sensitivity to social contingencies, we will orient behavior analysts to methods and processes in the experimental analysis of behavior that could inform future laboratory as well as applied research.
Social Contingencies: From Language Acquisition to Skilled Social Interactions
THOMAS J. WALTZ (Eastern Michigan University), Claudia Drossel (Eastern Michigan University), Lauren Bauer (Gateway Pediatric Therapy), Tori Humiston (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Infants are immersed in rich social-verbal communities at the earliest moments of their development and the contingencies embedded in the interaction with these communities illustrate the key role social reinforcers play in language development. Variations in reinforcer intensity and quality are important components of the contingencies shaping ever sophisticated communicative repertoires in infants and young children. This presentation will provide a review of the research looking at the social contingencies embedded in early language development with typically developing children. The types of reinforcers and qualities of these caregiver social and instrumental responses will be summarized. For example, timing, tone, repetition, repetition with correction or expansion, and coordinated actions that are part of the coordinated caregiver social response can impact the quality of the learning trial. This literature will be contrasted with the assessment practices used to inform Early Intensive Behavioral Interventions for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and formal assessments of social pragmatic skills. Opportunities for improving the assessment of key dimensions of social contingencies will be discussed.
Social Contingencies Affect Standard Behavior-Analytic Methods
(Applied Research)
ZOE LUCOCK (Bangor University), Rebecca A Sharp (Bangor University)
Abstract: Many of the commonly-used behavioral methods in our field have been developed with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As such, they may require adapting for older adults with dementia, who are likely to have different social learning histories. For example, whilst conducting standard behavior-analytic methods such as preference assessments and experimental functional analyses with adults with dementia, we encountered social contingencies that affected and interfered with the measurement of target behaviors. During preference assessments, our participants engaged in what we termed ‘polite verbal behaviors’ that impeded the selection of stimuli. For example, all seven participants asked what the researcher would like them to do with the stimulus they had selected, and 86% reported that they felt ‘greedy’ making selections between stimuli. Similarly, during an experimental functional analysis, we found that our participant made repeated comments relating to the stimulus conditions in place during ignore and attention conditions (e.g., “Why aren’t you talking to me- have I done something wrong?”). We discuss the importance for behavior analysts to be not only aware of social contingencies affecting their clinical work but also to engineer social contingencies in order that their results reflect responding under appropriate and meaningful stimulus conditions.
Preliminary Psychometric Properties of the FIAT-2: Updating a Behavioral Measure of Interpersonal Skills
(Applied Research)
CORY STANTON (University of Nevada, Reno), Brandon Sanford (University of Nevada, Reno), Jonathan Singer (University of Nevada, Reno), William C. Follette (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: The Functional Idiographic Assessment Template system (FIAT; Callaghan, 2006) is a behavior analytic approach to understanding key elements of an interpersonal repertoire for typically developing adults. The FIAT has been employed in research on Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP: Kohlenberg & Tsai, 1991) to some success. FAP therapists emphasize observation of in-session behaviors in order to identify relevant interpersonal contingencies for client distress and well-being. In addition, self-report questionnaires can be useful in identifying relevant concerns with the client's social repertoire. A short-form self-report instrument, the FIAT-Q-SF (Darrow, Callaghan, Bonow, & Follette, 2014) has been developed and used in research, but questions remain about its psychometric properties. In study 1, two waves of undergraduate students (n1 = 640; n2 = 526) completed multiple measures including the FIAT-Q-SF. During study 2, we developed and tested a new pool of items with another wave of undergraduates (n = 320). Finally in study 3, we further examined its properties in an mTurk subject pool (n = 400). The tentatively dubbed FIAT-2’s properties will be compared to the original short form and implications for research and treatment will be discussed.



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