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  • Elizabeth Lang, MEd BCBA

Examples of Contingency Adduction


This started as a very long FB post response on the ABA Skill Share FB Group Page. Prior to posting this post, I shared it with a kind colleague, Jonathan Amey, who replied something to the effect of, "Beth! That is looong for Facebook. That would be a great blog post. I would like to refer people to such a post and say, "Hey! Here is an easy-to-understand description [for Contingency Adduction]." Well, here it is Jonathan:) Thanks for the encouragement.

First some background, I helped with a workshop with Kent Johnson and Vicci Tucci on Generativity at ABAI in 2016. It was in prepping examples, me as a forever student and Kent as my dear mentor, --we figured out the critical attribute of learning just what the heck are the important concepts to truly understanding contingency adduction.

So here was Kent's AHA from my naivete; You must know about part-whole relationships of behavior, if not, there lies the struggle and this is why contingency adduction comes off as so hard to grab onto for some. EXCEPT for when you know about the part-whole relationship. I will also share my lineage, my undergrad was with Paul Andronis who coined the term contingency adduction. In a sense, I grew up in this field thinking about behavior analysis and fluency and contingency adduction and so this is my tinted lens within behavior analysis. Hopefully, I serve the science well through sharing.

So let me demystify and try to explain in a FB post, now blog post (my first at that), as succinctly as possible and as best I can on my own learning curve. With that said- feedback is welcome kindness is appreciated.

Here we go...most practitioners are familiar with task analysis and this is sometimes the close-in non-example when nailing the concept down for contingency adduction. It is also where I think people latch on and think they know what generativity is about but most likely task analysis is just clouding the matter. Task analysis is linear, not part-whole with the tricky part being, task analysis can have part-whole relationships in the mix. So the part-whole means a behavior is embedded in or part of a composite behavior. What a behavior in a behavior??? The examples should clear this marbles-in-your-mouth language. For instance, math facts are needed to perform long division. Thus, if you do not have math fact-responding behavior, you won't be doing long division problems on paper pencil anytime soon. Balancing behavior is needed to ride a two-wheeler bike. If you cannot balance, you will not be riding a bike down the street. You may find yourself licking your wounds. Producing sounds is needed to vocally say words. If you are not producing sounds you will not be spouting off paragraphs. If the component is missing, you won't be observed engaging in the composite, it is impossible. When it is put this way, isn't it easy?

Ok! That is still not contingency adduction- that is just going over part-whole relationships. First, you need to know the learner's history, 1) the composite behavior has NEVER been taught ( via modeling, etc.) and 2) the learner has never performed that behavior prior- but 3) the learner does have the component behaviors in their repertoire. So now, contingency adduction is the instant when the learner responds in a novel way by combining or recombining those component behaviors to have a new composite behavior. Eg. A new paint stroke by an artist, a kid riding a bike for the first time, a first word, or solving a new math problem by using various math strategies and algorithms in new ways. Be aware, the next time the person engages in the behavior that is no longer an instance of contingency adduction. In addition, it is not that you are an EINSTEIN trailblazing for the universe- but that you are trailblazing for yourself as an individual. In sum, it is the first instance when the learner brings together component behaviors to form a novel composite behavior with no instruction on that composite behavior.

Maybe the trouble is the definition as it has several critical attributes and account for needing to have information on the learner's history. 1) No prior instruction/teaching, 2) component behaviors combined in a novel way to form a composite, and 3) it is the first occurrence.

Looking for extra credit my fellow fun thinker? Look at the nun riding the bike in the picture at the beginning and the graphic below and have a discussion with a friend who likes to think about ABA. A snapshot is a snapshot but you can make scenarios to learn the terms.

(Above is information Kent, Vicci and I presented at ABAI 2016 refining the concept further and displaying its relationship to application.)

I can give you an example of an early attempt at intentional contingency adduction. I was working with a student who produced two vocal sounds, 'ma' and 'ba', in his entire first 6 years of life. He had a failing liver and was in the NICU for his first year of life. He was in an "ABA" classroom for a year in preschool. I met him in kindergarten. My goal was for him to learn new sounds on his own. So, I trained his 1:1 aide to get him to produce "ma" and "ba" as many times as we could possibly occasion by using differential reinforcement of high rates (DRHR) of responding. Basically, occasions reduplicated babbling (as an SLP would call it). "Ma ma ma ma ma ma" - and just as I type as quickly as I can it would come out of his mouth in the same manner at times; mam amaam ama ma am am ma ma m a ma ma ma" the movement of ma repeatedly at high rates must be the component behavior for other new sounds. So "ma" is a component behavior for producing the sound "na". The child produced 4 new sounds within 2 weeks. We did not model the sounds that he produced on his own nor did we practice in any type of discrete trial teaching. Of course, he heard the sounds he produced before but, just like he did his entire life. This 1:1 aide trained to use DRHR, not an SLP, achieved getting this child to have contingency adduction occur! And just like Mark Sundberg had fascinating research with kids with autism producing the same error response type for intraverbals as their typically developing peers, this child on his own produced the same sounds that came next in development for typically developing peers without instruction. With the right conditions, he performed the same as his peers even though he was delayed 5 years. Does that not make you love the science of human behavior??!?!?

To me leveraging knowledge about Precision Teaching and aiming for fluency through measuring and deciding about behavior in time is the science of ABA and so yes we can achieve LASTING CHANGE!

If you want to learn more about Contingency Adduction look for readings and talks by, Paul Andronis and Joe Layng. They did the initial problem-solving and research in this area in Israel Goldiamond's lab. Discovery Learning Paper Contingency Adduction Paper

Kent Johnson at Morningside Academy is an applied practitioner of Generativity and another person to learn from via his writing (papers and books), or live at the Morningside Teacher's Academy Summer Institute.

This work is being refined and is evolving. I am excited to learn more through the feedback of this post or discoveries in the field as they unfold.

Hope that was helpful.

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