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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #351
CE Offered: BACB
Reinforcing the Verbal Conditional Discriminations of Individuals with Autism
Monday, May 26, 2014
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
W185d (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: VRB/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Lee L. Mason (The University of Texas at San Antonio)
CE Instructor: Lee L. Mason, Ph.D.

This symposium presents the findings from a series of research questions related to conditional discrimination in the intraverbal relation. The symposium centers on one large study on the effects of a token economy system on the auditory conditional discriminations of children with autism spectrum disorders. Three children with mild to moderate autism participated in this research, and were systematically introduced to individuals with whom they were previously unfamiliar. These strangers introduced themselves to each participant, and in doing so, conveyed a series of personal information. Immediately following each introduction, the participants were asked to recall specific information about the person they had just met. Employing a multiple-baseline across participants design, researchers reinforced conditional discriminations in the intraverbal relation for each participant. Follow-up statistical analyses were performed to identify some of the relations controlling the responding of each participant. Results were analyzed in terms of the number of statements about the individual recalled, the effects of systematic pausing as a negative reinforcer, the number of information seeking questions asked, and the mutual interests between the stranger and the child with autism.

Keyword(s): conditional discrimination, intraverbal responding

The Effects of a Token Economy on Increasing Verbal Conditional Discriminations

LEE L. MASON (The University of Texas at San Antonio), Don Davis (The University of Texas at San Antonio)

To what extent can a token economy system increase the number of auditory conditioned discriminations of children with autism spectrum disorders? To answer this question, three children with autism who were receiving behavior analytic intervention in a university-based center were systematically introduced to visitors to the center. Each participant and visitor engaged in a brief, structured conversation, in which the visitor mentioned 20 facts about him- or her-self. After the visitor left the participant was asked to recall these facts about the visitor. Employing a multiple-baseline across participants design, a token economy system was implemented with each participant to reinforce the number of conditional discriminations in the intraverbal relation made by each participant. Results show that the number of correct discriminations increased for each participant only after the token economy system was introduced. Additionally, the data remained at treatment levels following a two week maintenance period. Results will be discussed within the greater context of teaching intraverbal relations.


An Examination of the Reinforcing Contingencies of Social Interactions

ALONZO ANDREWS (South Texas Behavioral Institute), Lee L. Mason (The University of Texas at San Antonio), Don Davis (The University of Texas at San Antonio)

To what extent does a lag in conversation negatively reinforce the social interactions of students with autism? And to what extent does the reinforcement of verbal statements about other people increase the rate of information seeking behavior? To answer these questions, researchers programmed in multiple 10 second pauses throughout the conversation between the participant and stranger. The verbal behavior of participants during these pauses was then analyzed to identify the contingencies of reinforcement associated with maintaining social interactions. Previous research has found that for many children with autism the establishing operations may simply not be sufficient to evoke verbal behavior, such as manding for information. However, other researchers have found that children who progress to advanced stages of language acquisition will eventually become capable of developing new language skills in the absence of explicit training. In this paper, we present our findings and discuss the results along with implications for reinforcing social interactions.


The Effects of Mutual Interests on Verbal Conditional Discriminations

DON DAVIS (The University of Texas at San Antonio  ), Lee L. Mason (The University of Texas at San Antonio  ), Alonzo Andrews (South Texas Behavioral Institute)

To what extent are shared interests/activities more likely to be recalled? During their interactions, strangers provided each participant with answers to twenty "personal interest" questions (i.e., facts about themselves). We sought to determine whether students were more likely to recall mutual interests, or were more susceptible to reinforcement towards recalling such matched answers. To determine this, we evaluated the interests identified by each stranger against the self-reported interests of the participants. Researchers found no statistically meaningful relationship between participants' characteristics (e.g. "favorite music"), their ability to recall such information, nor their susceptibility to reinforcement to recall such information. This lack of significance is potentially meaningful for multiple reasons. Not only does this finding reinforce previous discussions of the lack of "empathy" exhibited by students with autism spectrum disorders, it, more importantly, raises significant questions regarding the role of interactional histories and their affect on students with autism spectrum disorders, verbal behaviors and susceptibility to (or lack thereof) contingencies of reinforcement related to their interactional histories. Namely, these findings extend discussions of limitations of students' self-other correspondence to broader questions of potentially diminished significance of "self" for children with autism spectrum disorders.




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