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 #351
CE Offered: BACB
Complex Overt and Covert Behavior
Sunday, May 29, 2022
5:00 PM–6:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 255
Area: VRB/PCH; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Julie M. Dunbar (New England Center for Children)
Discussant: David C. Palmer (Smith College)
CE Instructor: Julie M. Dunbar, M.S.
Abstract: Skinner’s conceptualization of verbal behavior including both overt (i.e., observable) and covert (i.e., unobservable to all but the behaving individual) responses are explored in this symposium. A behavior analytic definition of gestures as non-vocal verbal behavior with both listener and speaker functions is explored with suggestions for training, programming for maintenance, and future research. The role of bidirectional naming is evaluated with typically developing children on a tact-training procedure to identify pictures as same or different, and followed by an assessment of responding on an analogical reasoning task. A visual imagining training procedure is evaluated with children and adolescents with autism to teach intraverbal responses and intraverbal categorization; a review of the results from this study includes an analysis of evidence of covert behavior. Then, empirical research methods are reviewed with consideration for application to the study and further understanding of covert behavior and processes with recommendations for future research.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Problem solving, Verbal behavior
Target Audience: This symposium is recommended for practitioners, researchers, and graduate students. Attendees should have an introductory understanding of Skinner's conceptualization of verbal behavior.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) state a behavior-analytic definition of gestures; (2) identify prerequisite skills necessary for children to solve analytical problems; (3) define visual imagining training as a problem-solving strategy for intraverbal categorization; and (4) describe methods for conducting research on covert events.
Gestures: The Forgotten Verbal Behavior
GANNA BARTASHEVA (Hunter College City University of New York), April N. Kisamore (Hunter College), Lauren K. Schnell (Hunter College), Sharon A. Reeve (Caldwell University)
Abstract: Although gestures are essential in effective verbal behavior, they have received little attention in behavior-analytic research; specifically in interventions targeting acquisition of gestures by individuals with autism spectrum disorder. One likely reason for this is that there does not appear to be a clear behavior analytic conceptualization of gestures that is consistent with a behavior analytic account. To address this limitation, we propose a definition of gestures that is consistent with the science of behavior analysis. Using Skinner’s conceptual paradigm of verbal behavior, we also propose a definition of gestures as forms of non-vocal verbal behavior that are effective in (a) altering the behavior of and reinforced through the mediation of the listener, (b) culturally determined and indispensable for effective communication in a given verbal community, and (c) that can perform some of the same functions as vocal verbal operants (i.e., can serve as tacts, mands, intraverbals, and autoclitics). We further distinguish between speaker and listener gestures. Using these proposed definitions, we present an overview of research on teaching speaker and listener gestures to individuals with ASD with an emphasis on the methods used to teach these skills, procedures used to program for and assess generalization and maintenance, and strategies for assessing social validity of these interventions. We also suggest areas for future research.
The Role of Bidirectional Naming in the Emergence of Analogical Relations in Children
TATIANA ZHIRNOVA (California State University, Sacramento), Vanessa N Lee (California State University, Sacramento), Caio F. Miguel (California State University, Sacramento)
Abstract: We investigated the role of bidirectional naming in the emergence of analogical reasoning in typically developing children. Following training procedures to tact categories and relationally tact presented stimuli as either “same” or “different,” we tested whether four typically developing children between the ages 5 and 7 years could match pairs of pictures based on same and different categories. Tact training procedures produced derived analogical responding in two out of the four participants. The remaining two participants required additional, direct training to teach strategies to solve analogy tests. The results of this study confirm that typically developing children under 9 years of age can solve analogy-type problems once they have learned needed prerequisite skills including category and relational tacting. Results of this study further suggest that tact training is sufficient to produce both speaker behavior and listener behavior, as well as responding consistent with analogical reasoning. Areas for future research are discussed.

Effects of Visual Imagining Training and Visual Prompts on Intraverbal Categorization With Children With Autism

MELANIE MCCARTHY-PEPIN (Simmons University/Behavioral Connections), Judah B. Axe (Simmons University)

Children with autism exhibit delays in the communication skill of intraverbal categorization, defined as responding to category names with several items from that category (e.g., responding to “tell me some animals,” “tell me some vehicles”). Kisamore et al. (2011) increased these responses with typically developing preschoolers using visual imagining training, conceptualized as a problem-solving strategy. The training consisted of showing the participants scenes (e.g., farm, table) with items relevant to each category and asking the participant to close their eyes, imagine the scene, and say what they see. We extended this procedure to four students diagnosed with autism, ages 5-15, using a multiple probe design across behaviors. One participant increased intraverbal responses with visual imagining training alone. The other three participants increased intraverbal responses with visual imagining training and visual prompts that were the trained scenes without the embedded items. Additional data indicated that when the participants emitted many (e.g., 12) intraverbal responses, they grouped their responses by scene, suggesting use of the covert visual imagining strategy. This visual imagining strategy may be effective with some students with autism, and future researchers should identify methods for establishing intraverbal responses free from visual stimulus control.

Review of Methods for Conducting Research on Covert Events
JULIE M. DUNBAR (New England Center for Children), Jason C. Bourret (New England Center for Children)
Abstract: Radical behaviorists deem covert behavior to be sensitive to the same processes as overt behavior, yet there is a paucity of research evaluating private events due to challenges around the observation, reinforcement, and measurement of these responses. This review summarizes existing empirical methodologies that can be utilized to further explore and expand our understanding of covert behavior. For example, it is possible to teach conditional discriminations to evaluate how covert behavior is established, measure the byproducts of overt behavior that occurs covertly, and measure response latencies. One may evaluate the byproducts of behavior chains, shape overt responses and infer the occurrence of covert behavior, teach covert responses (e.g., visual imagining), and compare vocal self-reports with overt measures of behavior. Additionally, advancements in technology offer a means of capturing behavior unobservable to participants (e.g., brain imaging). Science must address the problem of privacy (Skinner, 1963) to further understand complex human behavior and behavior analysis has the empirical framework to meet that challenge.



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