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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Invited Paper Session #317
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

A Nonsocial Reinforcement Hypothesis of Autism Spectrum Disorderand its Implication for the Acquisition of Verbal and Social Behaviors

Sunday, May 28, 2017
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 1
Area: VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Einar T. Ingvarsson, Ph.D.
Chair: Einar T. Ingvarsson (University of North Texas)
SVEIN EIKESETH (Oslo and Akershus University College)
Svein Eikeseth, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. Dr. Eikeseth has a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas and has been a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Eikeseth is the director of several major international research projects, and has made important contributions to the study of autism and to the field of behavior analysis. Eikeseth has published numerous scientific articles, book chapters, and books. He is a consultant for the Associanzione Pianeta Autismo, Rome, Italia, research and clinical director the UK Young Autism Project, Director for Banyan Center, Stockholm, Sweden, and a consultant for the Institute of Child Development, Gdansk, Poland.

Children with ASD and typically developing children were given a choice of responding to view social images or responding to view nonsocial images. Results showed that children with ASD responded significantly more to view the nonsocial images as compared to the typically developing children. This demonstrates that the nonsocial stimuli are more potent reinforcers for the behavior of children with ASD, as compared to typically developing children. The Nonsocial Reinforcement Hypothesis of ASD asserts that infants develop ASD because they have a strong affinity for nonsocial reinforcers. When nonsocial stimuli are more rereinforcing than social stimuli, the environment selects and shapes varies forms of stereotyped and repetitive behavior rather than verbal and social behaviors. Indeed, verbal operants such as tacts and intraverbals are shaped and maintained by social reinforcement, and are often missing or delayed in children with ASD. Echoic behavior, which is more often seen in children with autism, do not require the same type of social reinforcement since copying a stimulus may be reinforcing in itself. The affinity for nonsocial reinforcers may have negative effects on the establishment of a variety of social stimuli as conditioned reinforcers, which further hampers the development of communication, social skills and social interests.

Target Audience:

Professional behavior analysts who are BCBA-certified, applied researchers

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) state how children with ASD tend to respond to nonsocial as opposed to social reinforcers; (2) state how children with ASD differ from typically developing children with respect to social versus nonsocial reinforcement; (3) describe the implications of preference for nonsocial reinforcement for the acquisition of verbal and social behavior.



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