Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2019

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Master in Applied Behavior Analysis and Clinical Science

Committee Member(s)

Dr. Michele Williams

Dr. Sarah Slocum-Freeman

Dr. Kara Wunderlich

Supervising Faculty Member

Dr. Michele Williams


Current practice is for reinforcers to be determined through systematic preference assessments prior to incorporating those items as reinforcers for behavior change programs. Historically, preference is typically determined by these assessments via a non-vocal response (i.e., subjects touch the item they prefer). It is possible in clinical settings, however, therapists simply ask an experienced learner what he or she “would like to work for” prior to commencing discrete trial training. It is unclear whether answers to these questions would align with subjects’ non-vocal responses in a more formal assessment. The current study compared subjects’ responses during two multiple-stimulus-without-replacement (MSWO) preference assessments and a “vocal nomination” assessment to determine if preferences were consistent across conditions. The first condition was a traditional MSWO with non-vocal responses, the second MSWO condition required a vocal choice response, and the third condition involved a vocal nomination, in which subjects were asked to vocally choose one item they “would like to work for.” Results were similar to previous research that modified procedures from the original preference assessments, including using briefer assessments and vocal nominations, might not be a sufficient method for determining preference. Correspondence between the highest preferred item in the MSWOs and vocal nomination matched in 62% percent of trials. Possible future directions are discussed and recommendations for further investigating how often procedures such as the vocal nomination are used within clinical practice are provided.

Rights Holder

Marie Gilbert