Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Pace of ABA Research

My class on behavior models in ABA (effectively a survey on the various things ABA has been used for) has just started its unit on ABA-based autism interventions. As part of this, we were instructed to read our textbook's chapter on stimulus preference assessment.

One paragraph stood out the most to me. Namely,

One antecedent condition that obviously affects the momentary effectiveness of a reinforcer is the continuum of deprivation and satiation of a stimulus. In animal research, the use of ongoing schedules of food and water consumption are commonly used techniques for maintaining the effectiveness of stimuli used as reinforcers. Naturally occurring events are rarely, if ever, disrupted in applied research. However, it has recently been demonstrated that reinforcers are more and less effective at different moments during a routine day. Vollmer and Iwata (1991) demonstrated the differential effectiveness of food, music, and attention during periods of satiation and deprivation....

In other words, food acts more powerfully to motivate people when they're hungry. What really bugged me, however, was the date of that citation. It's referring to a study published in 1991.

My initial reaction was something along the lines of, "It took you fifty years to figure that out!?!"

Then, of course, I realized that the paper in question might not be a seminal work.

Then I started pondering how the hell the word "seminal" acquired the meaning it holds in science today.

After eventually dismissing that as a pointless etymological tangent, I decided to look the paper (which is publically available) up.

In a moment of horror, I realized that it was.

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