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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #406
CE Offered: BACB
See-Do; Hear-Do; We-Do; I-Do: The Acquisition of Untaught Responses in Social and Non-Social Contexts
Monday, May 28, 2018
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Seaport Ballroom C
Area: PRA/EDC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Mary A. Johnson (The Touchstone Center; St. Lillian Academy)
Discussant: Angie Moran (The Touchstone Center)
CE Instructor: Grant Gautreaux, Ph.D.

The identification of the source of reinforcement for untaught responses has been an elusive journey for applied researchers in the field of behavior analysis. While multiple explanations for the indirect acquisition of new skills abound, the impact of the social environmental context has been less agreed upon. People depend on the indirect learning for a variety of things in their lives. Individuals watch others when they are not certain of how they should act or react in a multitude of scenarios. These environmental conditions may be social, cultural or academic. For humans success in employment, schooling and with relationships may hinge on how we critically observe our environments. We report the results of four experiments related to the acquisition of untaught responses through observational learning, social listener reinforcement and emulation each of which can be analyzed vis-a-vis a social or non-social context. The implications for educational and clinical settings are also discussed.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Emulation, Observational learning, Social Reinforcement
Target Audience:

masters and doctoral level BCBAs


Observational Learning: Acquisition and Utility

GRANT GAUTREAUX (Nicholls State University), Derek Jacob Shanman (Nicholls State University), Carmen Vara-Napier (St. Lillian Academy), Dolleen-Day Keohane (Nicholls State University)

People depend on observational learning for a variety of things in their lives. Individuals watch others when they are not certain of how they should act or react to a multitude of scenarios. These environmental conditions may be social, cultural or academic. For humans success in employment, schooling and with relationships may hinge on observation. What people observe in addition to behaviors of others are the contingencies that are part of their interaction with the environmental stimuli. They are subsequently affected by how those interlocking events provide consequences for others. Recent evidence suggests distinctions between the effects of observation on the emission of previously acquired repertoires, the acquisition of new repertoires and the acquisition of observational learning as a new repertoire. Prior research has not clearly identified whether the changes in behavior from observation constituted learning because in many cases tests were not done for the presence or absence of the repertoires prior to observation. We describe new investigations reporting procedures leading to the acquisition of observational learning, and the acquisition of operants and higher order operants by observation. We also provide information on how to use observational learning for making educational and clinical decisions.


A Comparative Analysis of Imitation and Emulation Tasks and the Identification of Co-Requisites for Emulation

TRICIA CLEMENT (The Touchstone Center), Paula G. White (The Touchstone Center), Natalie Leow-Dyke (Jigsaw CABAS School), Grant Gautreaux (Nicholls State University)

The purpose of this study was to exam the relationship between the emulation and pre-requisite cusps or capabilities. A multiple baseline design across matched triads was utilized. The study was conducted with 23 individuals diagnosed with autism. The participants ranged in ages from 3 to 13 years old (5 females and 18 males) and all of whom received over 20 hours of ABA services weekly. The participants ranged from pre-speaker/pre-listener to reader/writer levels of verbal behavior. All participants were initially probed to determine whether imitation and or emulation were present prior to the study. Imitation will be induced for all participants with baseline data of less than 80% accuracy on either imitation or emulation probes. This study will provide data on the following: correlations between emulation and cusps or capabilities, if changes in curricula are needed when imitation or emulation is in repertoire, or if consequent stimulus control is necessary for emulation.


Establishing Emulation and Improving Outcomes

Katherine M. Matthews (The Faison Center), Eli T. Newcomb (The Faison Center), CHRISTOPHER MORGAN (Florida Institute of Technology)

Emulation refers to a behavior by which an individual emits one or more responses that produce an environmental change that mimics the condition of a visual model. In this study, researchers used a multiple baseline across participants design to test whether generalized emulation could be occasioned through direct training and whether the presence of generalized emulation as a behavioral repertoire would result in lower trials-to-criterion for individuals with Autism participating in a life skills oriented school program. Results are discussed as they relate to the importance of establishing emulation and improving outcomes in daily living and job skills. Further, the results discussed offer information to inform whether the presence of emulation in repertoire can impact how vocational training programs are implemented as well as indicate the level of training required to help individuals reach a greater state of independence.


The Identification and Establishment of Reinforcement for Collaboration in Elementary Students

LAURA DARCY (Nicholls State University), R. Douglas Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)

In Experiment 1, I conducted a functional analysis of student rate of learning with and without a peer-yoked contingency for 12 students in Kindergarten through 2nd grade in order to determine if they had conditioned reinforcement for collaboration. Using an ABAB reversal design, I compared rate of learning as measured by learn units to criterion under two conditions: (A) rotated learn units between 2 peers with a peer-yoked contingency game board (collaborative reinforcement), and (B) rotated learn units between 2 peers without a peer-yoked contingency game board (individual reinforcement). Seven of twelve participants learned faster in the collaborative reinforcement condition, suggesting that they each had reinforcement for collaboration with a peer. Additionally, participants who demonstrated reinforcement for collaboration emitted higher levels of vocal verbal operants when yoked with a peer than the participants who did not. In Experiment 2, the participants who did not demonstrate reinforcement for collaboration were placed into a collaborative intervention, in order to determine if this potential developmental cusp could be established. In a delayed multiple probe design across dyads, four participants engaged in peer tutoring with a confederate peer, and a yoked contingency game board was utilized to reinforce their effective collaboration. Following this intervention, all four participants demonstrated a faster rate of learning when yoked with a peer, as well as increased levels of vocal verbal operants with their peers. These findings suggest a shift in reinforcement from social contract to social contact. The educational significance and implications of this potential developmental cusp are discussed.




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