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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #479
CE Offered: BACB — 
Social and Nonsocial Stimuli as Reinforcers for the Behavior of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders and Typically Developing Children
Monday, May 29, 2017
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 4A/B
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Kristine Safaryan (California State University Los Angeles)
Discussant: Kristine Safaryan (California State University Los Angeles)
CE Instructor: Svein Eikeseth, Ph.D.

This symposium presents four studies examining effects of various types of social and nonsocial reinforcers for the behavior of children with autism spectrum disorders and typically developing children. Effects of three types of social reinforcers (i.e., enthusiastic praise, neutral praise, and smiling faces) and one type of nonsocial reinforcer (i.e., geometric forms) were assessed. Results shows that for the children with autism, exited praise was more reinforcing as compared to praise given in a neutral tone of voice. In contrast, the two types of praise was equally effective for typically developing children. When given a choice between a smiling face and a geometric form, children with autism preferred the geometric reinforcer to a lager extent than was the case for the typically developing children.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Nonsocial Reinforcers, Praise, reinforcement quality, social reinforcers
Effects of Quality of Praise on Discrimination Acquisition
JENNIFER REBECCA WEYMAN (University of South Florida), Jolene R. Sy (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Abstract: Previous research has shown that praise is an effective reinforcer; however, few studies have evaluated how qualitative differences in praise affect responding. The purpose of the current study was to compare the effects of neutral-quality praise, high-quality praise, and no praise on the rate of discrimination acquisition and maintenance of discriminations at a 6-week follow-up with children diagnosed with autism and intellectual disabilities during discrete-trial training. In addition, preference for neutral-quality praise, high-quality praise, and no praise was evaluated. Slightly faster acquisition was observed during the high-quality praise condition relative to the neutral-praise and no praise conditions for all three participants and independent discriminations maintained at a 6-week follow-up for two of two participants during all three conditions. In addition, one of three participants preferred high-quality praise. These results suggest that there is a slight advantage to using high-quality praise relative to neutral-quality praise and no praise during discrete-trial training.

A Comparison of Enthusiastic and Neutral Praise in Skill Acquisition in Children With Developmental Disabilities

MEGAN HINDS (Lovaas Institute for Early Intervention), Michele D. Wallace (California State University, Los Angeles)

In an expansion of Polick, Carr and Hanney (2012), the purpose of this study is to determine the effects of enthusiastic and neutral praise in skill acquisition by four children with developmental disabilities in this alternating treatment design with a concurrent multiple baseline. One skill with six objectives, three for each phase of treatment, was targeted for each participant. Skill acquisition was measured as a percentage of opportunity as well as sessions to mastery to determine which method resulted in faster skill acquisition. During one phase, enthusiastic social praise was delivered contingent on a correct response while neutral praise was delivered during the second phase. Enthusiastic praise was defined as varied pitch and intonation, volume or tempo as well as an animated tone of voice. Neutral Praise was defined as even and consistent pitch and tone. The same ten approved phrases were used as in both phases of treatment. No sensory input or gestures were provided during either phase of treatment. For all four participants, skill acquisition was faster when enthusiastic social praise was delivered by an average of 1.43 sessions. Anecdotal reports indicate that noncompliance was higher in participants during the neutral praise phase and Clients failed to meet mastery in more neutral praise targets. Limitations and recommendations for future research are discussed.


Praise Delivered in Excited Tone or Neutral Tone Affect the Behavior of Children With Autism Differently From That of Typically Developing Children

SVEIN EIKESETH (Oslo and Akershus University College), Catherine M. Gale (UK Behaviour Analysis and Research Group CIC), Miriam Worku (UK Young Autism Project), Sigmund Eldevik (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences)

According to treatment manuals, praise when used as a putative reinforcer should be given in an excited voice. However, no published study have directly evaluated whether excited praise is more effective than praise delivered in a neutral tone. To examine this questions experimentally, an application for a tablet to assess responding to social praise delivered in excited tone and neutral tone was developed. Two squares, one red and one yellow were presented simultaneously on the tablet screen. Whenever one of the stimulus was touched, it played an audio clip of social praise either delivered in excited tone or neutral tone. Participants were 10 children with ASD and 9 typically developing children. Dependent variable was number of touches on each type of stimuli within and across participants. Results showed that for children with ASD, praise delivered in excited tone was more reinforcing compare to praise delivered in neutral tone. For typically developing children, in contrast, both conditions were equally effective in controlling responding, and hence, equally effective as reinforcers.


Assessing Reinforcement Magnitude of Social and Nonsocial Stimuli in Children With Autism and Typically Developing Children Using a Progressive Ratio Reinforcement Schedule

SVEIN EIKESETH (Oslo and Akershus University College), Catherine M. Gale (UK Behaviour Analysis and Research Group CIC)

This study assessed reinforcement magnitude of social and nonsocial stimuli in children with autism and typically developing children using a progressive ratio reinforcement schedule. An application for a tablet was developed to assess responding to social images and nonsocial images. A pixelated stimulus was presented on the tablet screen, and whenever it was touched, it played a video clip for two seconds. The video clip was either a social image (a face) or a nonsocial image (a geometric pattern). Participants were 10 children with autism and 10 typically developing children. Dependent variable was the reinforcement schedule reached before responding extinguished (i.e., break point), and rate of responding across sessions. Results showed that for nonsocial stimuli, the break point and the rate of responding was higher for the children with autism as compared to the typically developing children. For the social stimuli the break point and the response rate was for similar for the children autism compared to the typically developing children. Results suggest that nonsocial stimuli is a more potent reinforcer for the behavior of children with autism as compared to typically developing children. Potent nonsocial reinforcers may select stereotyped and repetitive behavior and defici verbal and social skills.




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