Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy


The B. F. Skinner Foundation sponsors this award through the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy.



2016 Student Research Award

Student: Amy Henley, University of Kansas

Title:Translating Reinforcer Dimensions and Behavioral Economic Demand to Inform OBM

Advisor: Florence DiGennaro-Reed, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Abstract: A recent study suggests mistakes made by medical professionals may be the third leading cause of death in the U.S., underscoring the gravity of work performance. Incentives consistently improve and maintain desired employee behavior and may be one solution to address workplace issues like that of medical errors. However, applied uses of incentives are not as common as one might expect and are often ephemeral when they are used. Perhaps a gap in the extant literature may be functioning as a barrier to the initial and continued use of workplace incentives. Notably missing from the literature are comparisons or parametric analyses of incentives, and in particular, research to date has largely failed to consider basic reinforcer dimensions (e.g., delay) that have been shown in basic and applied literature to influence reinforcer efficacy and responding. Without an understanding of how reinforcer dimensions influence performance, incentives may be provided in ways that are ineffective or cost-prohibitive, which likely contributes to their lack of use or short half-life. The purpose of the proposed study is to evaluate the effects of three reinforcer dimensions on performance using a novel computerized human operant task. The work setting is replete with alternative sources of reinforcement unrelated to work completion that are difficult to simulate in the lab. The computerized task will be used with Mechanical Turk Workers who have access to numerous alternative activities to which they may allocate responding to improve simulation fidelity. The study will also use quantitative modeling adapted from behavioral economics that incorporates the work requirement needed to access the reinforcer (another factor influencing reinforcer efficacy) and will be used to derive metrics that may offer unique benefits in the workplace. The goal is to identify important features of incentive delivery and a more comprehensive method for quantifying their value, potentially increasing the effectiveness and feasibility of incentives in organizations.

2016 Student Poster Award:

Student: Hannah V. Greenwood, Regis College

Title: Clinical Example: Effects of Multiple Exemplar Training on Teaching Preschool Children to Share

Advisor: Lauren Beaulieu, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Abstract: We used a multiple probe across participants design to evaluate multiple exemplar training and a mediating stimulus on sharing with two typically developing preschool children. We taught a sharing response within and across four different categories of items. The mediating stimulus (e.g., green bracelet) was placed on the participant’s wrist during sharing trials and paired with “It’s time to practice sharing” during training trials. Correct sharing was praised and incorrect sharing was followed by the presentation of video models. Sharing increased to high levels for one participant. Sharing did not increase with the second participant; therefore, we sequentially introduced several modifications including introducing a rule specifying the contingency, decreasing the number of trials, altering the reinforcer, and finally, providing reinforcement for prompted responses. Following the reinforcement of prompted responses, sharing increased to high levels. When we re-introduced the initial treatment, sharing maintained. We calculated interobserver agreement during 33% of sessions using a trial-by-trial method across all participants and measures. The mean agreement for all participants’ sharing was 96% (range, 78% to 100%). A limitation is the lack of functional control since the treatment was initially ineffective for one participant; however, we identified a modification that increased sharing for that participant.


2015 Student Research Award

2015 - Casey Dipsey - Research Award

Student: Casey Dipsey, Caldwell University

Title: Using Behavioral Skills Training and Equivalence-Based Instruction to Teach Children Safe Responding to Dangerous Stimuli

Advisor: Dr. Jason Vladescu

Abstract: The purpose of the present study will be to teach a safety response across multiple dangerous stimuli to typically developing preschoolers. A non-concurrent multiple baseline design will be used to evaluate acquisition of a safety response. During baseline for safety responses, participants will be exposed to naturalistic assessments where they will encounter three types of dangerous and non-dangerous stimuli. During intervention, participants will be exposed to behavioral skills training (BST) in the presence of a single type of danger. In-situ training will be used as needed. Following mastery of a safety response, participants will be exposed to equivalence based instruction (EBI) in an effort to create classes of dangerous and non-dangerous stimuli. Following EBI, assessments will be used to evaluate generalization of a safety response to dangers that were not directly trained with BST. Hypothesized results will show that BST plus in situ training, in addition to EBI will be successful in teaching a safety response across multiple dangerous stimuli. These results may provide initial support for an efficient method to teach children to respond to multiple dangerous without requiring direct training for each stimulus.

2015 Student Poster Award:

2015 - Zoe Newman - Poster

Student: Zoe Newman, New England Center for Children, Western New England University

Title: Comparison of Positive and Negative Reinforcement Treatments of Socially-maintained Escape Behavior

Advisor: Dr. Allen Karsina

Abstract: We compared the efficacy and social validity of differential positive and negative reinforcement in the treatment of problem behavior maintained by escape from social interactions. We conducted latency functional analyses of aggression in a 16-year old male individual diagnosed with autism and Landau-kleffner syndrome. The results of the initial analogue analysis were inconclusive, therefore we conducted a modified analysis that included a control and test for verbal attention and physical proximity. After determining aggression was maintained by social avoidance in the form of physical proximity, we compared the use of positive reinforcement (requests for food) and negative reinforcement (requests to be alone) using a reversal design. Results indicate both procedures were equally effective in reducing rates of problem behavior to zero without the use of extinction. Social validity was assessed through surveys of caregivers and the participant’s preference. Generalization of treatment effects was assessed by extending the procedures to caregivers using a multiple-baseline design. Reliability measures were collected for aggression and mands on more than 30% of sessions and averaged greater than 90%.


2014 Student Research Award


Kara WunderlichKara Wunderlich, University of Florida

Title: Effects of Serial and Concurrent Training on Generalization to Novel Parameters

Advisor: Dr. Timothy Vollmer

Abstract: In many cases, generalization to novel exemplars does not happen automatically; specific teaching procedures must be used to promote generalization of newly acquired responses. One specific method recommended by Stokes and Baer (1977) is to train sufficient exemplars of stimuli. This research will evaluate the effectiveness of two different training methods (serial and concurrent training) on the generalization to tact responses to novel parameters (therapists and settings). In serial training, the therapist/setting present in training will only change once mastery has been met with the previous therapist/setting; however, in concurrent training, the therapist/setting will alternate across sessions from the outset of training. Differences in generalization following each method of training will be assessed throughout the study.


2014 Student Poster Award:

Meagan BarberMeagan Barber, Simmons College and New England Center for Children

Title: A Comparison of Treatments for Challenging Behavior in an Individual with Rett Syndrome

Advisor: Dr. Diana Parry-Cruwys

Abstract: Pervasive hand movements such as hand wringing and hand mouthing are common in individuals with Rett Syndrome. A comparison between a piece of adaptive equipment (an elbow orthosis) and a physical interruption procedure was conducted with a 2-year-old girl with Rett syndrome who exhibited both hand wringing and hand mouthing behavior. An elbow orthosis and a physical interruption procedure were alternated to determine if one was more effective at reduction of both behaviors. The results of both phases of this study indicated that while both treatments reduced hand wringing and hand mouthing, the elbow orthosis condition resulted in fewer instances and lower rates of both behaviors. Both adaptive equipment and physical interruption procedures may be an effective method for decreasing pervasive hand movements in individuals with Rett Syndrome.


2013 Student Research Award

Stephanie HoodStephanie A. Hood, University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe Meyer Institute

Title: “An Evaluation of Parents’ Acquisition and Generalization of Teaching Functional Communication and Delay and Denial Tolerance to Decrease Child Problem Behavior”

Advisor: Dr. Kevin Luczynski

Abstract: The purpose of our study is to extend the preschool life skills (PLS; Hanley, Heal, Tiger, & Ingvarsson, 2007) by assessing stimulus generalization of parents’ implementation of the functional communication and self-control units with their child at home following brief (1-2 hr) in-clinic training.  Following parent training in the clinic, we will assess parents’ accuracy in implementing the teaching procedures in their home and their child’s acquisition of the skills.  After the child acquires the communication response, we will assess whether generalization of the teaching skills occurs across novel (untaught) evocative situations at home.  We will measure parents’ procedural integrity and conduct booster-training sessions if errors are observed.  Teaching parents to be the primary behavior-change agent may have implications for the long-term maintenance of their child’s appropriate communication while preventing the development of severe problem behavior.  We will use web-based cameras to gather descriptive data on the type of procedural integrity errors made and challenges to treatment implementation in the home.

2013 Student Poster Award:

Jackie MarraJacqueline P. Marra, New England Center for Children

Title: “Negative Reinforcer Magnitude Manipulations without Extinction for Treating Escape-Maintained Problem Behavior.”

Advisor: Dr. Eileen M. Roscoe

Abstract: Differential negative reinforcement of alternative behavior (DNRA) without extinction has been found ineffective for reducing escape-maintained problem behavior. However, DNRA without extinction has been found effective when used in conjunction with discrepant negative reinforcer magnitudes (longer break for compliance than for problem behavior). Subsequent replication attempts have not yielded similar findings. Therefore, the potential utility of DNRA with discrepant reinforcer magnitudes remains unclear. In the current study, we assessed the effects of DNRA without extinction when discrepant reinforcer magnitudes for compliance and problem behavior were used in a participant with an autism spectrum disorder. An escape baseline was compared to an equal magnitude escape condition (30 s for compliance and problem behavior), a large discrepancy escape condition (240 s for compliance, 10 s for problem behavior, and a moderate discrepancy escape condition (90 s for compliance, 10 s for problem behavior), using a reversal design. DNRA without extinction with a large discrepancy in reinforcer magnitude resulted in shifts in response allocation from problem behavior to compliance, whereas the other conditions did not. Interobsever agreement was collected for 31% of sessions and averaged 93.6% (range, 83.3% to 100%) for self-injury and 98.6% (range, 86.7% to 100%) for compliance.


2012 Student Research Award:


MDonnellyMaeve Donnelly, Western New England University


Title: “Prevalence and Effects of Teaching Errors on Acquisition of Self-Care Chains”


Advisor: Dr. Amanda Karsten


Abstract: Research demonstrates that training packages consisting of differential reinforcement and prompting comprise an effective method for teaching behavior chains to children with developmental disabilities.  However, some children may fail to acquire important behavior chains, such as those associated with self-care skills (e.g., washing hands, making snack, folding clothes).  The proposed study will evaluate the effects of empirically-derived teaching errors on the acquisition of self-care behavior chains.  During the first phase of Study 1, teachers trained in behavior analytic teaching strategies will be asked via internet survey to describe problems that occur when teaching self-care skills to children with autism.  Survey respondents who report a high degree of difficulty will be asked to participate in a descriptive assessment.  The second phase of Study 1 will consist of a descriptive assessment designed to explore the prevalence of various deviations from prescribed teaching procedures (i.e., teaching errors) by teachers instructing self-care behavior chains.  In Study 2, relative effects of the most prevalent teacher errors will be evaluated in terms of student learning.  A multiple baseline across behavior chains design will be used to test whether the empirically-derived errors are functionally related to learning outcomes.  Following this analysis, the most egregious teaching errors will be assessed with multiple between-participants demonstrations to determine the individual effects of each teaching error in isolation, including an analysis of which teaching errors are most detrimental to learning.  Teaching errors assigned to each self-care behavior chain will be systematically varied across participants.  Results will be discussed in terms of how research may help to identify priorities for teacher training and, potentially, to aid in the development of more user-friendly and effective practices for teaching behavior chains.


2012 Student Poster Award:


Anthony PalermoAnthony M. Palermo, University of Massachusetts, Lowell


Title: “Examining the Preference for Fixed Contingent and Fixed Noncontingent Reinforcement Schedules.”


Advisor: Dr. Lauren Beaulieu


Abstract: In 3 translational studies, we assessed the preference for contingent reinforcement (CR) and noncontingent reinforcement (NCR) with 11 undergraduates. In Study 1, we assessed the preference for CR and NCR with work materials present during all conditions. In Study 2, we assessed the preference for CR and NCR with work materials absent during NCR. In study 3, we assessed the preference for intermittent CR and NCR. Across all studies, the reinforcement amount was yoked from CR to NCR and we included a response cost condition to assess the value of the stimuli used as reinforcers and as a control during the preference assessment.Two observers independently collected data on the number of filed papers and initial link card selections across 100% of sessions and participants. Mean IOA for filed papers was 99% (range, 93% to 100%) across all conditions and participants. We calculated IOA on card selections by dividing the number of agreements by the total number of selections and multiplying by 100. IOA for card selections was 100% across all sessions and all participants. We found that 6 participants preferred CR, 4 participants demonstrated indifference, and 1 participant preferred NCR. No participant preferred response cost. We shifted the preference of 10 of the 11 participants by manipulating the yoked reinforcement schedule. We discuss the implications of these results.

2011 Student Research Award:


Giles Aimee F. Giles, West Virginia University


Title: “Comparison of Two Teaching Procedures on Generalization Across Settings and Time”


Advisor: Dr. Claire St. Peter


Abstract: Discrete-trial training (DTT) has been demonstrated to be an effective teaching tool; however, little research has been conducted demonstrating if skills learned by DTT generalize to naturalistic learning contexts (e.g., Lovaas, 1987). One method of DTT, task interspersal, has been demonstrated, to result in faster acquisition and better generalization compared to massed-trial procedures. Rowan & Pear (1985) attributed enhanced acquisition and generalization of skills following task-interspersal training to increased reinforcer density and enhanced stimulus control. The present study will investigate the effects of task-interspersal and massed-trial procedures on acquisition, maintenance, and generalization to a naturalistic learning context. In addition, two test procedures will attempt to identify whether increased reinforcer density or enhanced stimulus control may contribute to the effectiveness of task-interspersal procedures.


2011 Student Poster Award:


Jessica Seaver Jessica L. Seaver, The New England Center for Children and Western New England University


Title: “An Evaluation of a Response Prompt Assessment”


Advisor: Dr. Jason Bourret


Abstract: Acquiring new skills can be difficult for students with autism. Research is still needed to identify a teaching procedure that helps students learn most efficiently. Three different teaching modalities were compared in a multi-element design using novel Lego constructs: 1) verbal+gestural, 2) model, and 3) manual guidance. All procedures were taught with a forward task analysis to 5 different participants. Once a participant acquired one construct associated with a specific teaching procedure, 3 new constructs were presented and taught with the same modalities for replication purposes. In a 2nd phase, novel Lego constructs were used again to compare three different prompt fading procedures: 1) delay fading, 2) least-to-most fading, and 3) most-to-least fading. In a final generality phase, clinically relevant skills were used to replicate and generalize findings obtained in the first two phases. The results of this assessment will be used to further evaluate and develop an assessment which identifies the most efficient teaching procedure for individuals with autism.

2010 Student Research Award:

Sinead WoodSinead Petersen, Simmons College

Title: “Evaluating Treatment Integrity Across Prompting Strategies with Paraprofessionals using a Discrete-Trial Training Method”

Advisor: Dr. Michael Cameron

Abstract: Treatment integrity is an important and largely unexamined area in the school consultation literature. This study will investigate the relationship between procedural complexity and treatment integrity.   Seven paraprofessionals in one public school will teach seven autistic children.   A variety of receptive targets will be taught in a discrete trial format using two different prompting strategies: flexible prompting and least-to-most prompting. In the context of an alternating treatments design, percentage correct of discrete trial teaching components will be measured in the two prompting conditions. This research will provide school professionals with important information regarding the relationship between procedural complexity and treatment integrity. School consultants may use this information to identify procedures that require less follow up.


2010 Student Poster Award:

awardCatherine Taylor-Santa, Caldwell College

“Discrimination Training Procedure to Establish Conditioned Reinforcers for Children with Autism”

Advisor: Dr. Tina Sidener

Abstract: Although conditioned reinforcers are used in many behavioral intervention programs for individuals with developmental disabilities, little research has been conducted with this population to determine optimal methods for producing conditioned reinforcers.  The current study employed a multiple-probe design across stimuli with three children with autism to evaluate the effects of a discrimination training procedure on the reinforcing effectiveness of arbitrary stimuli.  Specific procedures were incorporated to increase methodological rigor (i.e., use of new response, reinforcer and neutral stimulus assessments) and enhance differential responding (i.e., alternation of SD and S-delta trials). For all three participants, responding in the SD condition increased briefly during all evaluations and remained low in the S-delta condition.  IOA data were collected for 50% of randomly selected sessions for each participant and agreement was 100% for all participants except for post-test sessions for one participant (M = 99.4%; range = 90%-100%).  Recommendations for future research on methods to increase the duration of these effects are provided.