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Further evaluation of the use of preference categories to identify novel reinforcers: A systematic replication

Research paper by Christina E. Livingston, Richard B. Graff

Indexed on: 28 Feb '18Published on: 19 Feb '18Published in: Behavioral Interventions



Abstract

Preference assessments are frequently used to identify reinforcers for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Although well-established procedures have been shown to identify preferred stimuli for individual items that can be used in skill acquisition and behavior reduction programs, little research has been conducted on identifying categories of preferred items. In this study, paired-stimulus preference assessments were conducted with 4 individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Researchers classified the edible stimuli as belonging to 1 of 4 categories: chocolate (e.g., chocolate chips and M&M's®), salty/crunchy (e.g., chips and crackers), gummy (e.g., Swedish Fish® and Starburst®), or fruit/vegetable (e.g., grape and apple). Preference hierarchies were identified for individual stimuli and for categories of stimuli. For all participants, at least 3 of the 4 most preferred items came from the same category. Novel items (i.e., items not included in the preference assessments) identified by the researchers as belonging to the high-preference category functioned as effective reinforcers during subsequent reinforcer assessments for all participants. This finding suggests that clinicians could identify likely effective edible reinforcers based on an individual's categorical preference without explicit testing.