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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #457
CE Offered: BACB
I See Therefore I Learn: Recent Advances in Observational Learning
Monday, May 30, 2022
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Meeting Level 2; Room 258A
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Andrew Pierce Blowers (Kadiant)
Discussant: Bridget A. Taylor (Alpine Learning Group)
CE Instructor: Andrew Pierce Blowers, Ph.D.

This symposium will focus on recent research and advances in observational learning in children with autism and related disabilities. The first paper evaluated the effects of teaching children with autism to leverage differential observing responses on observational learning across multiple types of contingencies. The second paper focused on observational learning through the selectionist perspective. In this study, the effects of establishing preverbal cusps in the form of observing responses on subsequent observational learning cusps and child-initiated social interactions was evaluated. The third paper evaluated the effects of three systematic variations of observational learning interventions on observational performance, acquiring novel behaviors, and establishing new reinforcers under denial conditions. The fourth paper evaluated the effects of the observational conditioning-by-denial intervention over changes in reinforcing value of previously neutral stimuli in children with and without developmental disabilities.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Conditioned Reinforcer, Observational Learning, Observing Response, Social Learning
Target Audience:

Audience members should have a basic understanding of applied behavior analysis and the behavior analytic interpretation of learning through observation.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this symposium, participants will be able to: (1) describe how observational learning differs from imitation; (2) identify the experimentally and conceptually identified prerequisite skills considered essential to observational learning; (3) describe the procedures presented on for increasing observational learning.
Effects of Differential Observing Responses on Observational Learning Across Multiple Contingencies
ANDREW PIERCE BLOWERS (Kadiant), Kevin C. Luczynski (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Ciobha A. McKeown (University of Florida)
Abstract: Whether a child with autism spectrum disorder will exhibit observational learning may depend on their attention to and the stimulus modalities of the observed contingency. We used multiple-probe and repeated-acquisition designs to test observational learning across a diverse set of contingencies, which included hidden edible, hidden toy, hidden video, tact, receptive identification, and intraverbal contingencies. During preteaching, 2 children with autism spectrum disorder showed observational learning with some contingencies. After learning to engage in differential observing responses for observed behaviors and consequences with the hidden-video contingency, 1 child showed generalization of observational learning with receptive identification and intraverbals. Neither child showed generalization with the tact contingency. Thus, teaching was initiated with the tact contingency, which led to generalization of observational learning with tacts. The efficacy of teaching differential observing responses over observational learning was demonstrated. Inconsistent observational learning across contingencies suggests scientist practitioners should assess observational learning across a variety of contingencies.
Learning to Observe to Learn by Observation
JENNIFER LONGANO (Fred S. Keller School)
Abstract: From a behavioral selectionist perspective, it is stimuli that select out responding. In the case of Observational Learning, responding must come under the relevant stimulus control of stimuli associated with people in the observer’s environment. In many cases these stimuli develop as conditioned reinforcers naturally without the need for any intervention. In other cases, these stimuli need to be deliberately and specifically conditioned until they come to exert the necessary stimulus control. This paper will describe the foundational observing responses, or preverbal cusps, necessary for children to come under observational stimulus control in order to learn by observation.
Interventions to Establish Observational Learning Cusps
JESSICA SINGER-DUDEK (Teachers College, Columbia University)
Abstract: Researchers have identified several behavioral developmental cusps associated with Observational Learning (OL). These cusps allow individuals to 1) demonstrate changes in responses that were previously in their repertoire, 2) acquire new operants, and 3) establish reinforcement properties across different stimuli by observing others receiving those items under denial conditions. Researchers have also developed different interventions to establish one or more of these OL cusps for students with and without disabilities. This paper will present three of those interventions, as well as systematic variations of each, demonstrating compelling evidence of the success of these procedures in furthering participants’ social learning.
A Systematic Review of Observational Conditioning-by-Denial Interventions
HUNG CHANG (Teachers College, Columbia University)
Abstract: A majority of studies have examined the effects of observational learning on various performance and learning behaviors; however, few studies have focused on how observational learning changes the reinforcement value of neutral stimuli for children when they were denied access to the stimuli. Researchers conceptualized this conditioning process as observational conditioning-by-denial intervention (OCDI). Researchers have tested the effects of OCDI on establishing reinforcing properties across various educationally significant stimuli (e.g., books, adults’ praise) over the past decade. This paper will present and analyze a number of different components of the OCDI that affect the effectiveness of the OCDI in establishing new conditioned reinforcers for children with and without disabilities.



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