Association for Behavior Analysis International

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First International Conference; Italy, 2001

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Paper Session #29
Infants and Young Children
Thursday, November 29, 2001
1:00 PM–1:50 PM
Photographs Hall
Area: DEV
Chair: Anthony DeCasper (University of North Carolina)
 
Generalised Imitation in 1-2 Year Old Children?
Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
MIHELA ERJAVEC (University of Wales, Bangor), Pauline Horne (University of Wales, Bangor), Charles Fergus Lowe (University of Wales, Bangor)
 
Abstract: This study employed single participant operant methodology to investigate the development of generalised behavioural matching (or ‘imitation’) in 1-2 year old children. In Phase 1, a baseline of 4 Control Matching Behaviours (i.e. modelled behaviours that the child could reliably match) was established. In addition, 4 Target Matching Behaviours (modelled behaviours to which the child responded but not with matching behaviours) were identified. In Phase 2, the child was trained to produce the response component of the Target Behaviours under discriminative control that did not include the sight of the experimenter modelling those behaviours. In Phase 3, the child was presented with experimenter-modelled probes for the 4 Control Matching Behaviours and the 4 Target Matching Behaviours. Though matching of the 4 Control Behaviours was reliable and comparable across Phases 1 and 3, the children did not produce the 4 Target Matching Behaviours. These data are consistent with a radical behavioural explanation of imitation in which infants gradually learn a minimal behavioural matching repertoire. No convincing evidence for a higher order and generalised class of imitation was found in the 1-2 year olds studied.
 
Whether Maternal Speech Heard by the Fetus will be a Reinforcer for the Newborn Depends on the Reinforcement Contingencies
Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
ANTHONY DECASPER (University of North Carolina)
 
Abstract: Research has shown that human fetuses' experience with naturally-occurring maternal speech can affect their postnatal behavior. Specifically, it makes the maternal voice a more potent reinforcer [of the newborns' operant behavior] than a stranger's voice; it makes the sounds of the mother's language a more potent reinforcer than the sounds of a foreign language; and prenatal experience with one specific passage from the native language makes it a more potent reinforcer than some other passage from the language. However, whether the prenatal stimulus actually functions as a potent reinforcer after birth depends on properties of the auditory system and on properties of the reinforcing environment. We will present data showing that a female speaking the newborn's native language is a reinforcer in simple operant learning tasks only when the speech is delivered to the right ear/left hemisphere. In contrast, the same stimulus is more reinforcing than a foreign language in a choice task only when the stimuli are delivered to the left ear/right hemisphere. A large body of data indicates the ear x task interaction probably reflects the fact that the right hemisphere is better for mediating discrimination between familiar and unfamiliar speech sounds. Prenatal exposure to maternal speech may make many dimensions of the speech potentially useful after birth, but the environmental contingencies surrounding the child's behavior determines which dimensions will be relevant as reinforcing stimuli or as discriminative stimuli (e.g., sometimes its emotional tone, sometimes its the sound of a specific word, or sometimes it's a specific order of words.) The environmental contingencies of childrearing select the interactions between behavior (e.g. simple response or choice response or attention response) and biology (e.g., left auditory substrate, right auditory substrate) that will occur during infancy and childhood. In a very real sense, from the moment of birth, the contingencies of child rearing determine which perceptual and linguistic skills will develop and thus, which cerebral substrates of behavior will be most affected by the contingencies of rearing.
 
 

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