Preference for Physical Activity

runningPresently, 52% of adults do not meet the recommended levels of Physical Activity Guidelines prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thus, identifying a simple strategy to increase preference for physical activity could remedy the serious health concerns associated with limited physical activity. Many studies have shown that by pairing a neutral unconditioned stimulus with a primary reinforcer, the neutral stimulus acquires the reinforcing properties and it becomes a conditioned reinforcer. Stimulus preference assessments can assist in identifying stimuli that can function as reinforcers, and historically selfreports of preferences over-identify items that function as reinforcers.

The purpose of the present study is to investigate the relationship between participants’ self report of their preferences for physical activity and the results of a multiple stimulus without replacement preference assessment, followed by assessing whether or not physical activity can be conditioned as a reinforcer using pairing procedures. A total of 295 individuals completed a survey, and 8 individuals participated in the preference assessments, 4 of whom identified physical activity as low-preference, and 4 of whom identified physical activity as high-preference.

Using a multiple-baseline design, the 4 low-preference participants were then exposed to 8 sessions where they paired walking on a treadmill with a highly preferred compatible activity (i.e., watching Netflix). Preliminary results showed that the in-person assessment corroborated self-reported preferences for physical activity. Additionally, for the participants who have completed some of the pairing sessions, preference for physical activity has increased. Conclusions, limitations, and considerations for future research will be discussed.

Authors: Maureen Kelly, BA, Sarah Krchnavek

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