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Evaluating the use of computerized stimulus preference assessments in foster care


  • Cristina Whitehouse is now at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida. Bennie Colbert is now at the University of South Florida.
  • This experiment was completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the PhD degree by the first author. We thank Brian Iwata, Lise Abrams, and David Diehl for their guidance and suggestions throughout the study. We also thank Nemanja Nesic, Terri Saunders, Eva Horner, and Angela Stills for their support and assistance and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful recommendations on an earlier version of this manuscript.


The purpose of these studies was to extend the use of stimulus preference assessments to children in foster care. In Study 1, subjects completed a computerized 4-point Likert-type questionnaire designed to assess preference for a wide range of stimuli and activities. Next, items identified as highly preferred (HP) and less preferred (LP) on the questionnaire were tested using a computerized paired-stimulus preference assessment. Results showed complete correspondence between the results of the computerized preference assessments for 11 of 17 subjects. Studies 2 and 3 evaluated whether the stimuli identified as HP in Study 1 would function as reinforcers. Overall, subjects allocated their engagement to HP items, and those HP items could be used as reinforcers for math problem completion. Collectively, these studies demonstrated that computerized preference assessments may be a feasible method of identifying preferences in the foster care system. Implications for their use in foster care are discussed.