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.


32nd Annual Convention; Atlanta, GA; 2006

Event Details

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Symposium #311
CE Offered: BACB
International Symposium - Imitation Its Sources, Lines of Fracture, and Role in Expanding Behavioral Repertoires
Monday, May 29, 2006
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
Area: DEV; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Jacob L. Gewirtz (Florida International University)
Discussant: Jacob L. Gewirtz (Florida International University)
CE Instructor: Jacob L. Gewirtz, Ph.D.

Imitation is widely considered fundamental in human learning, in natural development as well as in special education programs for developmentally disabled persons. The purposes of the present symposium are to review (1) the history of imitation theory and empirical research, (2) current research questions and empirical data, (3) conceptual issues, and (4) directions for future behavior-analytic research on imitation.

The History of Imitation Research and Suggestions for its Future.
MARICEL CIGALES (Advance Behavior Consulting)
Abstract: The act of imitating is widely considered fundamental for normal human learning and development. Imitation has been ascribed an important role in cognitive, language, moral and social development. This is evidenced by the more than 500 peer-reviewed articles published on the subject between 1967 and 2005. Yet, there is no consensus on the mechanisms of imitation. Multiple theories have been proposed to account for why and how humans imitate. This paper reviews the history and trends in imitation theory and empirical research. The role of imitation in higher-order learning processes is explored and directions for future behavior analytic research on imitation are suggested.
Stimulus Control in Generalized Imitation.
DEBRA PAONE (Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York), Claire L. Poulson (Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York)
Abstract: This study examined the extent to which imitation generalizes within a set of stimulus models that can be arrayed along a physical continuum. The participants, three typically developing children, were presented with a choice to imitate one of two stimulus models during both probe and training trials. During training trials, one of two stimulus models that occasioned reinforcement was presented with one stimulus model that never occasioned reinforcement. Probe trials, which were interspersed among training trials, were used to measure the extent to which imitation generalized within a set of stimulus models. Imitation of stimulus models used during probe trials was never reinforced. Following training, tests of generalization were conducted under extinction conditions. The data showed that as the physical similarity of the probe models to the S+ models increased, the level of imitative responding increased. The results are discussed in terms of stimulus control of imitative responding.
Imitation as Continuous Repertoires.
PER HOLTH (The Behavioral Center, Oslo)
Abstract: A multiple exemplar training aimed at establishing imitative skills must necessarily consist of a limited number of exemplars in which reinforcement is contingent upon responses that are similar to the responses of a “model”. Such “imitation training” may sometimes be considered successful when a certain number of directly taught performances can occur in mixed order with few or no errors. However, this result may be nothing more than a series of separately reinforced discriminated operants in which the similarity between responding and the responses of a “model” remains irrelevant to the controlling relation. Instead, a true imitative repertoire can be characterized as a continuous repertoire in which novel values on some dimension of behavior varies as a function of similar novel values on that dimension of the behavior of a “model”. However, in behavior analysis, characterizations, be it higher-order classes, relational frames, or continuous repertoires, remain characterizations rather than explanations. Sources, possible prerequisites, and optimal sequencing of tasks to facilitate the development of continuous repertoires still need to be investigated.



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