Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Richard W. Malott
Dr. Stephanie Peterson
Dr. Ron Van Houten
Dr. Steven Ragotzy
Learned reinforcers, conditioned reinforcers, secondary reinforcers, behavior analysis, autism, approval
Approval does not function as a powerful reinforcer for many children with autism, making it difficult to reinforce appropriate behavior in a functional and consistent manner. The current study first assessed the effects of establishing approval (“Nice,” accompanied by a smile and nod) and nonsense words as discriminative stimuli, with the intent that they might also become learned reinforcers. We conducted several experiments to assess the effectiveness of approval as a reinforcer, including tests on learning new responses (receptive, expressive, freeoperant, and simple simultaneous discriminations) and tests on the performance of previously mastered responses (receptive and expressive responses). Despite the effectiveness of the approval statement as a discriminative stimulus, it seemed to act as a very weak reinforcer, at best. We then assessed the effects of response-contingent pairings on the establishment of a learned reinforcer. For the current participant, the response-contingent pairing method seemed to be an effective method for establishing a learned reinforcer. Using this procedure, we were able to maintain the value of the learned reinforcer, as long as it continued to be paired with an unlearned reinforcer contingent on another response.
Kohler, Kelly T., "An Attempt to Establish Approval as a Learned Reinforcer" (2014). Dissertations. 378.