Repeatability of the infant food reinforcement paradigm: Implications of individual and developmental differences
Abstract The relative reinforcing value of food versus engagement in other behaviors may be related to the development of obesity, and interventions to reduce FRR may prevent the development of obesity. Our laboratory recently developed a paradigm to measure the reinforcing value of food versus an alternative behavior (i.e., playing with bubbles) in infants using a computerized laboratory task, during which infants press a button to earn reinforcers following a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the short-term (within 2 weeks) repeatability of this measure, specifically the outcome of infant food reinforcing ratio (FRR), or how hard infants will work for food relative to the alternative. The secondary aim was to examine whether infant age and temperament dimensions related to novelty responsiveness (high intensity pleasure and approach) moderated the repeatability of FRR. Thirty-seven infants aged 9–18 months completed this study. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed no differences between time 1 and time 2 in responding for food (F = 0.463, p = 0.501), bubbles (F = 1.793, p = 0.189), or overall FRR (F = 0.797, p = 0.378). Regression models showed the association between BUB P max at time 1 and time 2 were moderated by infant age ( p = 0.04), with greater repeatability in older infants. Linear regression models also demonstrated that the infant temperamental dimension of high intensity pleasure significantly predicted BUB P max at time 1 (β = 2.89, p = 0.01), but not at time 2. Overall, our findings support the repeatability of this measure for food portion of the reinforcement task, but demonstrated that the measure of non-food portion of the task required modification, in particular among children younger than 13 months old.
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