A Systematic Review of Applied Behavioral Economics in Assessments and Treatments for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

Shawn Patrick Gilroy, Brent A. Kaplan, Geraldine Leader

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Treatments for individuals with developmental disabilities regularly include assessments of individual choice and preference. These procedures assist in the development, design, and maintenance of effective, evidence-based practices. Despite widespread use, these assessments may or may not accurately identify reinforcers that will be effective in treatments. Procedures and analyses from the area of behavioral economics have been proposed to address this potential source of error, although these procedures are observed relatively infrequently in the current literature. The purpose of this study was to systematically review the elements of behavioral economics that have and have not been incorporated into assessments or treatments for individuals with disabilities. The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) methodology was utilized (Prospero: #CRD42017069859) to systematically search the literature and the Scopus, PsycINFO, ScienceDirect, and SpringerLink databases were included. Studies were included if their procedures used behavioral economics and if those procedures were used with individuals with developmental disabilities. Twenty-two studies were identified and the results of this review indicated that only a limited range of behavioral economic procedures have been translated into assessments and treatments for individuals with developmental disabilities. This review discusses the degrees to which these procedures have been extended to this population and outlines additional research and replication to further aide in the translation of these procedures into applied practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-259
Number of pages13
JournalReview Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Autism
  • Behavior analysis
  • Behavioral economics
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Reinforcer efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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