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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #216
CE Offered: BACB
Examining the Effectiveness of Two Interventions in Establishing Observational Learning Cusps
Sunday, May 28, 2023
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Capitol Ballroom 1-3
Area: DEV; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Hung Chang (Fred S Keller School)
Discussant: Jessica Singer-Dudek (Teachers College, Columbia University)
CE Instructor: Hung Chang, Ph.D.

Researchers in past behavior analytic studies had identified different types of observational learning cusps that allow individuals to 1) acquire new operants, 2) perform behaviors that are already in repertoire, and 3) establish new reinforcers. We will present two papers, one of which used a peer-yoked-contingency game board game to establish an observational learning cusp for individuals with disabilities. In the other paper, we conducted a component analysis of an observational conditioning-by-denial procedure; specifically, we examined the role of the confederate in the effectiveness of the conditioning procedure.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Developmental cusps, Observational conditioning-by-denial, Observational learning, Peer-yoked contingency
Target Audience:

The target audience for the symposium is individuals who work in an educational setting that focus on improving the general well-being of students with disabilities.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify the various components within the observational conditioning-by-denial procedure; (2) have a basic understanding of peer-yoked contingency; (3) assess observational learning cusps.
A Comparison of Establishing Conditioned Reinforcer through an Observational Procedure across Peer and Adult Confederates
Jessica Singer-Dudek (Teachers College, Columbia University), HUNG CHANG (Fred S Keller School), Jennifer Longano (Fred S. Keller School)
Abstract: Prior studies had identified a type of observational learning repertoire (observational conditioning-by-denial; OCDI) that allows individuals to acquire new reinforcers. The findings from previous OCDI studies have shown the presence of a confederate is one of the contributing factors that facilitate the effectiveness of OCDI procedure. However, there are still other components embedded within the OCDI procedure need to be systematically tested. In the present study, we selected 4 preschoolers who demonstrated the observational performance repertoire prior to the study. We used a pre- and post-intervention design across participants combined with a reversal design to test the change in reinforcing properties of neutral stimuli across two different intervention conditions. In the first intervention condition, an adult confederate and the participant were asked to perform the same task, during which the confederate received neutral stimuli throughout the intervention, while the participant was denied access to those stimuli. The second intervention condition was identical to the first, except that a peer confederate was present instead of an adult. The post-intervention data from 2 of the participants showed that the reinforcing value of the neutral stimuli increased only when the participants underwent the peer confederate condition. The study is currently ongoing for the other 2 participants.

The Effects of Peer-Yoked Contingency on Establishing Observational Learning Cusps for Individuals With Disabilities


In a typical public-school classroom, it is not feasible for all learners to have individual opportunities to receive feedback from the teacher in the moment of the lesson. However, a select few learners may receive direct consequences from the teacher as they respond to class-wide questions. When individuals demonstrate observational learning (OL), they do not require direct consequences from a teacher to acquire new operants; rather, they will acquire new operants by observing others receive consequences. I tested the effects of a peer-yoked contingency game board to induce OL to learners who did not previously demonstrate acquisition of novel operants through observing others. I used a multiple probe design across 2 participants in 3 dyads. The participants’ chronological age ranged between 6 to 20 years old. The participants were paired into dyads based on their chronological age and verbal behavior repertoires. The participants had a clinical diagnosis of Down syndrome and/or autism spectrum disorder. The participants did not demonstrate OL for acquisition when a probe was conducted using novel picture-word relations in the pre-intervention probe. The stimulus control of OL was measured by the number of correct responses the client emits to untaught picture-word relations after observing a peer confederate receive learn unit instruction. Participant A in dyad 1 demonstrated OL using novel stimuli after three intervention phases. Participant C in dyad 2 demonstrated OL using novel stimuli after two intervention phases. Intervention is currently ongoing for Participants B, D, and dyad 3.




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