Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #63
CE Offered: BACB
Establishing Conditioned Reinforcers and Inducing Verbal Behavior Developmental Cusps in Young Children With or at-Risk for Developmental Disabilities
Saturday, May 26, 2012
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
4C-1 (Convention Center)
Area: DEV/EDC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jessica Singer-Dudek (Teachers College, Columbia University)
CE Instructor: Jessica Singer-Dudek, Ph.D.

This symposium will present research related to the establishment of new conditioned reinforcers, through both classical and operant conditioning procedures, and will also present research related to how children come to learn new things, such as incidental language or perspective taking, as a function of acquiring new reinforcers. The first paper will outline how new reinforcers are acquired in a comparison of classical and operant conditioning procedures and will present results from a study where books were conditioned as reinforcers, leading to faster acquisition of reading behaviors. The second paper will present a study to condition praise as a reinforcer for a young child with autism, a necessary component of the acquisition of other developmental cusps, such as listener and speaker behaviors. The third paper will discuss how language is learned incidentally, via the joining of the speaker and the listener when Naming is acquired, and will present procedures to induce Naming by exclusion when it is missing. The fourth paper will discuss procedures for inducing level 2 of visual perspective taking and the implications for children who lack social listener reinforcement.

Keyword(s): conditioned reinforcement, developmental cusps, perspective taking, verbal development

The Effects of Inducing Conditioned Reinforcement for Observing Books on Rate of Acquisition of Novel Textual Responses and a Comparison of Operant and Classical Conditioning With Preschoolers

R. Douglas Greer (Teachers College, Columbia University), SUSAN BUTTIGIEG (Teachers College, Columbia University), Jennifer Longano (Fred S. Keller School)

We tested the effects of conditioning books on the rate of acquisition of novel textual responses for 4 nursery school students at risk for developmental delays (3) or without developmental delays (1), aged 2 years, in two experiments. Two males and 2 females were selected for participation because they did not have book stimuli as a conditioned reinforcer for observing. The independent variables were the establishment of books as a reinforcer for observing responses and as a preferred activity in a free play area. The dependent variable was the rate of acquisition of novel textual responses. A matched-pairs with pre- and post-intervention probes with a nested multiple probe design was used; the participants were paired based on the number of learn units to criterion for a set of sight words. In Experiment I, Participants A and B acquired conditioned reinforcement for observing books as a function of mastering one set of words. Experiment II differed in that more sets of sight words were taught, and that the participants received the book conditioning intervention. Results indicated that the participants learned a novel set of sight words 2.20 to 7.25 times faster as a function of having books as a conditioned reinforcer. In another experiment we compared the effects of two conditioning procedures, operant conditioning versus classical conditioning, on the conditioning of peg boards as reinforcer. Toddlers, ranging in ages from 2-3 years old, in an early intervention school participated in the study. Participants were matched and paired. One child in each pair was exposed to an operant conditioning procedure, while the other matched pair received stimulus-stimulus pairings via a classical conditioning procedure. Preliminary findings show that for some participants the operant conditioning procedure was more effective for conditioning peg boards as a reinforcer, and for other participants the classical conditioning procedure was more effective. Future research will continue to compare the effects of the two conditioning procedures and also study potential prerequisite repertoires that affect the emergence of conditioned reinforcers for operant or for classical conditioning procedures.


Contingent Pairing to Establish Praise as a Conditioned Reinforcer With Children With Autism

AMANDA P. HORST (Simmons College), Judah B. Axe (Simmons College)

The limited influence of social stimuli as reinforcement for the behavior of children with autism is well documented. Reinforcement by social stimuli, such as attention and praise, is required for the maintenance and generalization of a multitude of social behaviors, most notably verbal behaviors (e.g., tacts, intraverbals) maintained by generalized conditioned reinforcement. The purpose of this study was to systematically replicate recent findings showing the praise can be conditioned as a reinforcer. The participant was 5 years old, diagnosed with autism, and nonverbal. A preliminary functional analysis demonstrated that button-pushing was consistently more frequent in a contingent tickle condition that in contingent praise and no consequence conditions. Contingent pairing of praise and tickles was then administered in 2-min sessions and praise alone was evaluated before and after pairing sessions each day. Results indicate that button-pushing increased in the contingent praise condition following the pairing condition. Interobserver agreement of button-pushing was 99.4% across 50% of sessions in the study. One interpretation of the data suggests that the motivating operation linked to the unconditioned reinforcer must be in effect in the conditioned reinforcement condition. Future research should continue refining the procedures for conditioning attention as a reinforcer as well as examine more closely at the role of motivating operations in the process.


Naming by Exclusion Training on the Emergence of Untaught Relations

R. Douglas Greer (Teachers College, Columbia University), LIN DU (Teachers College, Columbia University), Noor Younus Syed (Teachers College, Columbia University)

We conducted a study to see whether children who had the Naming capability (incidental learning of language) also had the capability of Naming by exclusion. First, we tested whether children could respond as both speaker and a listener to an array of objects on a table top except one that was novel. We counterbalanced the order of the stimuli presented within session and across students. If the child was determined to have Naming by responding correctly to the last 10 trials consecutively we then probed the child on the untaught responses after 2 hours on listener responses (10 trials) and speaker responses (10 trials) without any consequences, to see whether he had Naming by exclusion. Criterion was set at 80% accuracy. If the child did not demonstrate Naming by exclusion, we used another set of stimuli with 4 known items and 1 unknown to teach to criterion (100% accuracy) before we probed for listener and speaker responses. Participant A did not have Naming by exclusion during the pre-probe and was taught one instructional session to criterion and he demonstrated mastery in the post-probe in both listener and speaker responses. Participant B had Naming by exclusion, as evidenced by the pre-probe, and she had 70% accuracy in the listener and speaker responses in the post probe.


Inducing Skills of Level 2 of Visual Perspective Taking in Children With Autism

LORENA GARCIA-ASENJO (Universidad de Oviedo), Luis Antonio Perez-Gonzalez (Universidad de Oviedo), Carlota Belloso-Diaz (Asociacion Aprendemos Asturias)

Level 2 of visual perspective taking (VPT) consists of responding differentially according to the visual perception of oneself and other person, when both people are seeing the same object from different perspectives. We have identified how to induce skills of Level 2 VPT, evaluated with verbal and selection responses in typically developing children. In this procedure we intermixed trials of the Level 2 VPT probe with verbal responses and selection responses of photos and objects. The goal of this study was to replicate the procedure of probes to induce these skills in children with autism. One participants results replicated the data obtained in typically developing children, but the other participant showed that the performance in the probe with selection responses of objects depends on the type of verbal stimuli of the instruction. These results replicated partially those obtained in typically developing children, and added the specificity of the stimuli employed in the case of children with autism to succeed on some probes.




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