"MSWR" Preference Assessments

Do you ever wonder why certain procedures in ABA have to come across with so much technical jargon? While there's a very good reason for the technical language and terminology, one of our goals as BCBAs is to make the research accessible to everyone that comes across it. This journal entry specifically provides info regarding a really neat method of preference assessment called "Multiple Stimulus Without Replacement." 

First of all, a preference assessment is used to determine what an individual might find motivating. Remember, motivation is the cornerstone to an effective behavior change program. It's the critical fuel needed to experience positive gains. This is what an MSWR preference assessment involves: 

  • First, identify 8 items that you think MAY be preferred by the learner (i.e. do this by observing them interact with items for a couple minutes or base these choices on prior preferences of the learner)
  • Then, present 8 items in an array (for example, on a table in front of them) and ask them to choose one (make sure the items are equidistant from one another)
  • Allow the learner to play with the item for up to a minute before prompting them to choose again
  • Do not replace the chosen items into the array
  • This should assist you in creating a hierarchy of potentially reinforcing items
    • 1. Luke Skywalker Action Figure
    • 2. Airplane
    • 3. Slinky
    • 4. Paper Clip, etc. 

Remember, the definition of reinforcement involves an increase in behavior. If your preference is not changing behavior, then it's just a preference and not a reinforcer. 

Collect this information on a simple note paper ranking the items 1-8 or use a created data sheet (we have one that we can share). This should be done on a regular and on-going basis. Providing a preference assessment before placing demands gives you an advantage because you're prepared to reinforce the behavior that you want to see increased. Not doing so may set you up for failure-it's unfortunate to pass up a good opportunity to reinforce. 

If you'd like a sample data sheet, let us know and we'd be glad to share one! Post questions below as you have them. Thanks for reading and enjoy your preference assessments!