Satiation, or the state of being fully satisfied with something to the point that your desire for it is gone or greatly diminished, can be an issue with ABA style instruction. It can also be challenging because instructors may not identify the learner’s resulting behavior as being due to satiation. This situation is frustrating, especially when working with a non-verbal student or one displaying challenges with expressive language. Being aware of these five variables which may indicate satiation, could help teachers identify it and introduce novel and more reinforcing items/activities.
1) An increase in a student’s challenging behavior
While this is not necessarily due to satiation issues, students can often become frustrated when reinforcement levels drop or are eliminated. Even though there is a reinforcer present, it is not desired by the student and will not be helpful in producing appropriate behavior.
2) A student’s acute interest in other items/activities
Here again, it can be easy for teachers to dismiss a student’s interest in something else during instruction as being “non-compliant.” In actuality, he may be telling you that the video game he was earning is now not preferred and he is interested in earning that football. A simple contingency statement, such as, “When you earn all of your tokens you can get the football” could redirect his attention.
3) A lack of choice in the students DRO or Token Board re enforcers
The easiest and most effective way to decrease the chance of satiation occurring in the first place is to provide a good range of novel possible reinforcers. This can be done by including various pictures or names of items/activities on the student’s Token Board (commonly called a DRO or Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors). An imaginative variety of choices will benefit the student the most and they may surprise you with their choices!
4) Non-compliance or an excessive delay in responding
Not answering or not complying with a request could indicate a lack of interest due to the lack of a viable reinforcer.
5) Overall time spent earning a specific reinforcer
Lastly, the total time that the student has spent earning a particular reinforcer will generally indicate when to rotate it out for something new. Ideally, this should be done prior to complete satiation and therefore the student may still be motivated by the item/activity. This is fine because you can always reinsert this back into the choice list to allow the student to choose it in the future.
It should also be pointed out that using an effective reinforcer is also reinforcing for the teacher as well. If having your student earn a certain movie has greatly motivated him in the past, it is very tempting to continue to use this item to produce the same results. A robust and often changing choice list is the best way to avoid satiation issues.