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 #217
CE Offered: BACB
Escaping the Uncomfortable: Why the Measurement of Experiential Avoidance Matters
Sunday, May 24, 2020
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Salon B
Area: CBM/PCH; Domain: Translational
Chair: Madison Taylor Logan (University of North Texas)
Discussant: Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
CE Instructor: Elizabeth Meshes, Ph.D.

Experiential avoidance (EA), or attempts to escape unwanted internal experiences (e.g., thoughts, feelings) at the expense of long-term commitment to personal values, has wide-reaching effects for a variety of socially important problems. This symposium will explore EA in both its existing and potential forms of measurement. The first presentation will cover an analogue study which measures levels of EA by exposing adult participants to aversive sounds in the context of delayed reinforcement. The second presenter will discuss how an existing measure, the Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire, was used to investigate avoidance as a moderation of sexual prejudice and political affiliation among a college student sample. Both studies found that EA could be measured reliably. The results of the first study prove useful to an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy model, as choices changed from smaller, sooner reinforcement to larger, later reinforcement - mapping on to valuing. The hypothesized moderating role of EA in the relationship between political affiliation and sexual prejudice investigated in the second study was found to be insignificant, and the authors will discuss potential reasons for this finding. Measurement limitations and future directions will be covered.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Contextual Psychology, Experiential Avoidance, Measurement
Target Audience:

BCBA, Scientist-Practitioners, participants interested in Clinical Behavior Analysis

Learning Objectives: 1. Participants will learn how to measure experiential avoidance in at least two ways. 2. Participants will be able to identify the relationship between political affiliation and sexual prejudice. 3. Participants will be able to discuss the relationship between experiential avoidance and delayed reinforcement.

Toward the Development of a Delay Discounting Model of Experiential Avoidance

(Basic Research)
ELIZABETH MESHES (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology; Exceptional Minds ), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids), Amy Odum (Utah State University)

Experiential avoidance, which can be functionally defined as choosing short-term negative reinforcement over long-term values-oriented positive reinforcement, has been argued to be at the core of a large variety of socially important problems. Relatively little previous laboratory research has studied these functional relations and this study attempted to develop a laboratory preparation that pits shorter-term avoidance over longer-term positive reinforcement. Participants were exposed to choices between avoidance of an aversive sound (i.e., immediate, smaller negative reinforcement) or listening to an aversive sound for a period of time and accumulating money (i.e., delayed, larger positive reinforcement). Three experiments were conducted that evaluated varying magnitudes of delays to and the value of the positive reinforcer, in order to identify the point at which individual participants’ choices changed from the smaller, sooner reinforcer to the larger later reinforcer and vice versa. The potential applicability of this model is discussed as it relates to behavior problems that appear to involve experiential avoidance at their core. In addition, the implications for evaluating components of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are discussed.

Politics Predict Prejudice: Exploring Experiential Avoidance as a Moderator of Political Beliefs and Sexual Intolerance
(Applied Research)
MADISON TAYLOR LOGAN (University of North Texas), Taylor Johnson (University of North Texas), Amy Murrell (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Sexual minorities are at an increased risk of violence and face discrimination as a result of intolerance. Existing literature supports the idea that traditional conservative values regarding gender and family structure are related to increased sexual prejudice. However, there is limited research surrounding the role that experiential avoidance (EA) plays in this relationship. The present study hypothesized that (1) higher political conservatism is positively correlated with greater intolerance toward sexual minorities and (2) EA moderates this relationship. Participants were 293 (180 democrat, 113 republican) students recruited from a large, public university in the south central United States as part of a larger study. Survey measures were administered online and included a sexual prejudice subscale of the Intolerant Schema Measure (ISM), the Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire (AFQ), and a demographic survey. Results of the Spearman correlation supported the first hypothesis that there is a significant relationship between political affiliation and intolerance, (rs = .268, p < .001). Experiential avoidance did not moderate this relationship (ß= .047, p = .406). The implications of these results along with limitations of the study and future directions will be discussed.



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