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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #220
CE Offered: BACB
Observational Learning Research: A Review of Trends and Current Examinations of Complex Repertoires
Sunday, May 30, 2021
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Jaime DeQuinzio (Alpine Learning Group)
CE Instructor: Jaime DeQuinzio, Ph.D.

Observational learning is important in a child’s development because it allows behavior to be changed by the natural environment without experiencing consequences directly. This symposium will present a review of observational learning research with children with autism as well as cover two recent studies conducted with children with and without developmental disabilities. Both studies focused on the complex repertoire of responding to social contingencies applied to the behavior of others. In the first study, observed contingencies were applied to incorrect responses first and were shifted to correct responses and in the second study initially non-preferred stimuli were established as conditioned reinforcers via observational learning.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): conditioned reinforcement, observational learning
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) define observational learning from a learning perspective; (2) identify the components responses of observational learning; and (3)identify research designs used in observational learning research.

Teaching Observational Learning Skills to Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Review of the Literature

ALEXZANDRIA L. TRAGNO (Caldwell University), Tina Sidener (Caldwell University), Leslie Quiroz (Caldwell University), Kenneth F. Reeve (Caldwell University), Meghan Deshais (Caldwell University), Laura Lyons (East Windsor Regional School District, Hightstown, NJ)

Observational learning is important in a child’s development because it allows behavior to be changed by the natural environment without experiencing consequences directly. Given the deficits in this repertoire often observed in children with autism spectrum disorder, effective procedures for teaching observational learning are needed as part of comprehensive behavioral intervention programs. The purpose of the current review was to provide a systematic, quantitative analysis of studies that evaluated procedures for teaching observational learning to children with autism spectrum disorder. We identified 12 studies meeting our inclusion criteria and coded them across 17 parameters. An analysis of this body of research is provided, along with recommendations for clinicians and directions for future research.

Shifting Responding to Match Changes in Observed Responses and Contingencies: A Pilot Study to Evaluate Advanced Observational Learning Repertoires
(Applied Research)
JAIME DEQUINZIO (Alpine Learning Group), Marjorie Ortego-Solano (Alpine Learning Group), Bridget A. Taylor (Alpine Learning Group)
Abstract: Research has shown that children with autism can learn to discriminate the contingencies applied to modeled responses during observational learning. However, modeled responses in the natural environment are not finite as they have been arranged in experimental conditions. Modeled responses change according to the contingencies applied to them in the moment and observers must learn to shift responding accordingly. We first taught a participant with autism to discriminate correct and incorrect response of a model learning social studies and science intraverbals and then shifted modeled responses and consequences (i.e., the model shifted to a correct response after an initial incorrect response that was consequated with negative feedback “That’s not right”). We used a nonconcurrent multiple baseline design across three stimulus sets to determine the effects of discrimination training with rules on correct responding of one participant. Data showed that for one of the two of the three stimulus sets, the participant shifted responding to match the modeled shift (i.e., from incorrect to correct) without instruction, however rules and differential reinforcement were required to teach shifting in one set. Another noteworthy result was that sessions to criterion in the discrimination training condition decreased across stimulus sets. We discuss implications for teaching this advanced observational learning repertoire to children with autism.

The Effects of the Observational Procedure on Conditioned Reinforcement for Books for Preschoolers With and Without Disabilities

(Applied Research)
HUNG CHANG (teachers College, Columbia University), R. Douglas Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences), Jessica Singer-Dudek (Teachers College, Columbia University)

We tested the effects of an observational procedure on the establishment of conditioned reinforcement for observing books using multiple probe design across dyads with 4 preschoolers. All of the participants could textually respond to kindergarten or first-grade level high-frequency words, but observing books did not function as a preferred activity for them. The independent variable was the establishment of conditioned reinforcement for books using an observational procedure. During the intervention, the participants were paired into dyads. They observed a peer confederate reading books while the confederate received consistent social approvals from the experimenter; the participants did not receive social attention and were denied access to books during the intervention. The dependent variables were the rate of acquisition of textual responses, and the duration participants spent observing printed words. Results in the first experiment showed 3 participants had an accelerated rate of acquisition of textual responses after books functioned as conditioned reinforcers. Two participants spent a longer time observing printed words during the post-intervention sessions.




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