Applications of operant demand to treatment selection I: Characterizing demand for evidence-based practices

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Various treatment approaches have been determined efficacious for improving child behavior outcomes. Despite a variety of evidence-based options, consumers often disregard empirically supported treatments to pursue alternatives that lack empirical support, such as 'fad' therapies. The choice to pursue therapies lacking empirical support has been considered a 'gamble' on therapeutic outcomes and this form of risky choice has historically been explained using various cognitive heuristics and biases. This report translates quantitative analyses from the Operant Demand Framework to characterize how caregivers of children with behavioral issues consume treatment services. The Operant Demand Framework is presented, its utility for characterizing patterns of treatment consumption is discussed, and a preliminary application of cross-price analyses of demand is performed to illustrate how various factors jointly influence treatment-related choice. Results indicated that caregivers endorsing interest in receiving behavioral parent training regularly pursued pseudoscientific alternatives as a functional substitute for an established therapy, despite explicit language stating a lack of evidence. These findings question the presumption of rationality in models of treatment choice and degree to which scientific evidence influences the consumption of therapies. This report concludes with a discussion of Consumer Behavior Analysis and how quantitative analyses of behavior can be used to better understand factors that enhance or detract from the dissemination of evidence-based practices.

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Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior

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