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.


46th Annual Convention; Online; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #194
CE Offered: BACB
Investigating the Empathetic, Social, and Compliance Behaviors of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sunday, May 24, 2020
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Area: DEV/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jessica Horton (Teachers College, Columbia University)
CE Instructor: Jessica Horton, Ph.D.

This symposium will be comprised of three papers, each of which investigated one of three behaviors in children with ASD. The first, entitled “The Effects of the Social-Listener Protocol on the Empathetic Behavior of Children with ASD” examined whether children with ASD demonstrated empathy, followed by an intervention designed to establish peer reinforcers and test whether participants would them demonstrate empathy. The second paper examined the reinforcing effects of social attention versus tokens for a performance task for preschool children with ASD and found that results were related to children’s level of verbal development. The third paper investigated mothers’ delivery of instructional antecedents and consequences and their children’s subsequent compliance during a cleanup task. The study further compared children’s compliance with mothers’ reports of self-efficacy.

Target Audience:

Target audience includes students, practitioners, and researchers.

Learning Objectives: Objective 1: Audience members will learn the definition of empathy from a behavioral perspective and be able to describe the purpose and results of the protocol for establishing Social Listener Reinforcement as it relates to empathetic behaviors. Objective 2: Audience members will learn procedures for measuring the reinforcement value of tokens and social attention for students with ASD and how those results relate to levels of verbal development. Objective 3: Audience members will learn how mothers’ communicative behaviors differ according to their child’s level of verbal development and how they relate to students’ compliance with a performance task.

The Effects of the Social-Listener Protocol on the Empathetic Behavior of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

JESSICA HORTON (Teachers College, Columbia University), Jessica Singer-Dudek (Teachers College, Columbia University), R. Douglas Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

Empathy has not been widely studied by behavior analysts, most likely due to the variation in the literature in regard to definition and measurement. In 3 experiments we tested whether children with an educational classification of ASD would demonstrate empathy in an unfair play scenario and, if empathetic behavior was absent, whether the Social Listener Reinforcement (SLR) Protocol intervention would result in the emergence of empathy. The results from Experiment I, consisting of 11 typically developing students and students with ASD, showed that, overall, participants with ASD demonstrated fewer observing behaviors and answered fewer empathy-related questions correctly when compared to their typically developing peers. In Experiments II and III we employed a multiple probe design to test the effects of the SLR intervention on the demonstration of empathetic behaviors. Following Experiment III, the results showed an increase in vocal verbal operants and sharing behavior for 4 of the 6 Participants.


Reinforcing Efficacy of Token and Social Attention in Preschoolers With Autism Spectrum Disorder

YANRU CHEN (Teachers College, Columbia University), Laudan Jahromi (Columbia University Teachers College), R. Douglas Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

This study attempted to examine the effects of token versus social attention reinforcement on a performance task by preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to investigate factors contributing to reinforcer preference in this atypical population. A total of 31 students from a private preschool in suburban New York participated in the study. Results showed that the majority of the participants preferred token reinforcers rather than social attention, demonstrated by a higher total number of correct responses on a performance task under the token reinforcement condition compared to the social reinforcement condition. Further statistical analysis revealed a significant correlation between the participants’ performance under the same condition in the ABAB reversal design, suggesting that preschoolers with ASD have relatively consistent reinforcer preference between tokens and social attention. Also, participants with severer ASD symptoms tended to have higher discrepancies in their performance between token and social attention conditions. The effects of language on the participants’ social and nonsocial reinforcer preferences have not been found. However, participants who preferred token reinforcers tended use more language to regulate their behaviors in a frustration task of delayed delivery of tokens, suggesting that language is an essential behavioral regulation strategy for young children with ASD.


How a Mother’s Communication Form and the Use of Contingencies Relate to the Responding of Her Child With Autism Spectrum Disorder During a Compliance Task

ELIZABETH SNELL (Teachers College, Columbia University), Jessica Singer-Dudek (Teachers College, Columbia University), R. Douglas Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

We conducted a descriptive analysis on the effectiveness of how mothers communicate with their children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) during a compliance task, and whether their observed effectiveness related to their self-reported, self-efficacy score. Participants consisted of 37 mother-child dyads in which the children were preschool-aged and were categorized according to their level of verbal behavior development (e.g., prefoundational versus independent listener). Data were collected on the form (vocal, non-vocal, or mixed) and frequency of mother’s antecedents and consequences, whether consequences were contingent, and the children’s responses to antecedents. Analyses indicated that there was no statistically significant relationship between mothers’ communication form or use of contingent consequences as related to child’s verbal behavior development. Additionally, mother’s reported self-efficacy was not correlated with her child’s correct or incorrect responding. This study indicates the need for parent training regarding a child’s level of verbal behavior development and the use of contingent teaching practices.




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