Creating Computerized Experimental Analogs for Behavior Analytic Research


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Abstract

Experimental analogs take defining features of socially important contexts and recreate them in controlled laboratory settings in order to identify cause–effect environment–behavior relations. Computerized experimental analog tasks allow researchers to investigate issues that are difficult to study experimentally in applied settings for ethical or practical reasons; issues that include prevention of problem behavior, treatment integrity failure, escalation of problem behavior, punishment, and how stimulus-stimulus relations develop. Delay discounting research provides an illustrative example of ways in which outcomes can be arranged within experimental analog tasks. Researchers have developed a range of creative approaches to presenting reinforcers within experimental tasks. A review of articles incorporating a computerized experimental analog task published in three key behavior analytic journals from 2014 to 2017 categorized the programming language or other approach used. The most common approach was the Visual Basic programming language, but, overall, researchers have adopted a variety of responses. The purpose of this article is to provide researchers with an overview of issues to consider when tailoring computerized experimental analog tasks to their research goals and context.

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