Assessing reinforcing versus aversive consequences in a real-Time secondhand smoke intervention

Vincent Berardi, John Bellettiere, Benjamin Nguyen, Neil E. Klepeis, Suzanne C. Hughes, Marc A. Adams, Melbourne Hovell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Few studies have examined the relative effectiveness of reinforcing versus aversive consequences at changing behavior in real-world environments. Real-Time sensing devices makes it easier to investigate such questions, offering the potential to improve both intervention outcomes and theory. This research aims to describe the development of a real-Time, operant theory-based secondhand smoke (SHS) intervention and compare the efficacy of aversive versus aversive plus reinforcement contingency systems. Indoor air particle monitors were placed in the households of 253 smokers for approximately three months. Participants were assigned to a measurement-only control group (N = 129) or one of the following groups: 1.) aversive only (AO, N = 71), with aversive audio/visual consequences triggered by the detection of elevated air particle measurements, or 2.) aversive plus reinforcement (AP, N = 53), with reinforcing consequences contingent on the absence of SHS added to the AO intervention. Residualized change ANCOVA analysis compared particle concentrations over time and across groups. Post-hoc pairwise comparisons were also performed. After controlling for Baseline, Post-Baseline daily particle counts (F = 6.42, p = 0.002), % of time >15,000 counts (F = 7.72, p < 0.001), and daily particle events (F = 4.04, p = 0.02) significantly differed by study group. Nearly all control versus AO/AP pair-wise comparisons were statistically significant. No significant differences were found for AO versus AP groups. The aversive feedback system reduced SHS, but adding reinforcing consequences did not further improve outcomes. The complexity of real-world environments requires the nuances of these two contingency systems continue to be explored, with this study demonstrating that real-Time sensing technology can serve as a platform for such research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1558-1566
Number of pages9
JournalTranslational behavioral medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • Contingency management
  • Operant theory
  • Real-Time data
  • Secondhand smoke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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