The primary goal of Project 3 is to contribute to the development of an explicit technology of treatment generalization for chronic aberrant behavior (CAB). The past 20 years have seen significant advances in the development of intervention and treatment strategies. Because CAB is often treated in specialized clinical or educational settings, long term success of these interventions hinges on the successful generalization of treatment outcomes to non-treatment settings. Technologies for engineering the generalization of treatment gains obtained under highly controlled circumstances remain underdeveloped. Project 3 will conduct translational research that takes a stimulus-control perspective as its conceptual foundation. This project will be the first comprehensive effort to examine the problem of treatment generalization from the perspective of stimulus equivalence, including both acquired equivalences among discriminative stimuli that set the occasion for behavior and the related issue of the functional equivalence among the positive/negative reinforcing stimuli that are the consequences of behavior. Although equivalence research has advanced significantly in the past 30 years, there has been relatively little translation of these findings to the analysis of cross-setting transfer of treatment effects. The proposed studies are derived from the assumption that successful generalization and maintenance of treatment effects depends upon equivalence between treatment and generalization settings. We propose research aimed at two stages of the treatment process. The first is the initial diagnostic stage in which the function of problem behavior is determined by functional analysis (FA). From our perspective, future generalization will depend on part to the extent that the FA environment creates a model that is functionally equivalent to the environment in which the problem behavior occurs. Undifferentiated and false-positive FA results may reflect lack of equivalence. The second stage of treatment that we will address is the transfer of treatment gains achieved within a controlled environment to the everyday settings in which problem behavior occurs. From our perspective, generalization is facilitated when the FA-inspired treatment environment and the everyday environment are equivalent along discriminative and consequential dimensions.
The specific aims of the project are: (1) To develop and validate a protocol for identifying relevant variables following undifferentiated outcomes with standard FA procedures;(2) To develop and validate a protocol for identifying both positive and negative reinforcement in FA Demand conditions;(3) To define and validate a process for applying stimulus-control shaping procedures to transfer the effects of successful CAB-reduction procedures from the clinical environment to the individual's usual daily environment;and (4) To define and validate a process for (a) systematically identifying equivalence relations between therapists, the settings, and the materials in treatment and generalization environments;and (b) prescribing precisely targeted equivalence training procedures that promote treatment generalization.
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