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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Symposium #362
Int'l Symposium - Overcoming Core Deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Stimulus Overselectivity and Perspective-Taking
Monday, May 30, 2005
1:30 PM–2:50 PM
Continental B (1st floor)
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Yors A. Garcia (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: This series of presentations will discuss behavior analytic approaches to understanding stimulus overselectivity and perspective-taking deficits, which are common features of autism spectrum disorders.
An Empirical Analog of Over-Selectivity Using Normal Participants
LAURA J. BROOMFIELD (University of Wales, Swansea), Phil Reed (University of Wales, Swansea), Louise A. Mchugh (University of Wales, Swansea)
Abstract: Stimulus over-selectivity is a phenomenon often displayed by individuals diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders or learning disabilities in which control over behavior is exerted only by a limited subset of the total number of stimuli present. In the current study fifteen undergraduate participants, who were pre-screened on the autism spectrum quotient, were trained on a simple discrimination task using picture cards and then tested for the emergence of over-selectivity. Responding under the control of the over-selected stimulus was then extinguished. In subsequent tests, control of behavior by the previously under-selected response re-emerged. The results are discussed in relation to the implications for the development of a model of memory deficits in autism.
Overselectivity and Implications of the Matching-to-Sample Training Procedure
TIMOTHY M. WEIL (University of Nevada)
Abstract: Given the behavioral characteristics of autism, it is not surprising to discover that many with this disorder tend to respond to a narrow set of stimuli in the environment. These stimuli that come to control responding could be certain aspects of a discriminative stimulus, or worse, irrelevant stimuli present in the environment. When this ‘overselective’ behavior occurs consistently and thus affects the acquisition of adaptive responses, it is imperative to identify what particular components of a complex stimulus affect the probability of emitting a correct response. Lovaas and colleagues (1971; 1979) have documented the phenomena of overselectivity and offered suggestions as to it prevention and/or remediation in a variety of situations (e.g. prompting, generalization, social behavior). As such, this paper will include a short discussion of the overselectivity concept and history of research in this area. In addition, examples of training techniques commonly employed in autism training (matching-to-sample) will be used to illustrate potential setting factors that may promote overselective responding. Finally, some case examples will be reviewed.
Assessing Relational Learning Deficits in Children with High-Functioning Autism
JEFFREY E. DILLEN (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale), Ruth Anne Rehfeldt (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale), Megan M. Ziomek (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale)
Abstract: Perspective-taking is a skill that requires a child to demonstrate awareness of informational states in himself or herself and in others. The ability to change perspective may result in successful interpersonal relationships, as perspective-taking facilitates comprehension of another person’s position. Research has shown that children with autism spectrum disorders often perform poorly on perspective-taking tasks, putting such children at a disadvantage in social situations. Behavioral psychologists have recently suggested that perspective-taking emerges as generalized operant behavior following a reinforced history of relational responding. A procedure for evaluating perspective-taking skills from this perspective, known as the Barnes-Holmes protocol, was implemented with typically-developing children and adults; it was found that errors decreased as a function of age (McHugh, Barnes-Holmes, & Barnes-Holmes, 2004). The purpose of this study was to extend the findings of McHugh et al. (2004) by using a computerized version of the Barnes-Holmes protocol to evaluate relational learning deficits in perspective-taking in children with high-functioning autism and their age-matched peers. We also correlated scores on the task with scores on standardized assessments commonly used in the diagnosis of autism. Results showed that children with autism demonstrated a greater number of errors on the task.
An Event Related Potentials Measure of False Belief Understanding as Generalised Operant Behavior
LOUISE A. MCHUGH (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Yvonne Barnes-Holmes (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Dermot Barnes-Holmes (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Simon Dymond (APU, Cambridge, UK), Robert Whelan (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Ian T. Stewart (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Abstract: Understanding true and false belief has been documented as a precursor to the developmental of a theory of mind by mainstream developmental psychologists. This interest has been enhanced by the possible role of theory of mind deficits in autism. One recent strand of this research has employed the Event Related Potentials (ERPs) methodology to index the activity of neural systems engaged during ToM reasoning in adults. Specifically, neural activity elicited by belief based tasks as compared with photograph controls was characterized by a focally enhanced positivity over left frontal areas, which was diminished over left parietal areas. Recent Relational Frame Theory research (RFT) has suggested the possible utility of approaching false belief understanding as generalized operant behavior. According to RFT, the deictic relational frames of I and YOU, HERE and THERE, NOW and THEN and logical NOT are central to the development of complex belief understanding. The aim of the current study was to index the activity of neural systems that are engaged during RFT based false belief tasks involving these relational frames in an attempt to demonstrate the functional similarity of the RFT and ToM approaches. Results suggest a neurobiological link between traditional Theory of Mind tasks and relationally based false belief tasks.



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