Date of Award

8-2001

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Jack Michael

Second Advisor

Dr. James Carr

Third Advisor

Dr. Richard Mallot

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Abstract

The pairing of a specific sound (neutral stimulus) with a reinforcer should result in the sound becoming a conditioned reinforcer. When a child produces the same sound, hearing it should function as a form of reinforcement (automatic reinforcement). Previous studies appear to have demonstrated the effectiveness of such a procedure to increase and develop vocalizations in children. The current study attempted to further evaluate the effectiveness of such procedure.

Two experiments involving two and three children diagnosed with autism were conducted. Target responses were one- or two-syllable utterances. Conditions were baseline, control, and positive pairing. Data were collected during presession and postsession observations. During baseline sessions, there was no interaction between participants and experimenter. During control sessions, the experimenter emitted a vocal response and after a period of time presented a preferred item. During pairing sessions, the experimenter's vocal response was paired with the delivery of the preferred item. Results showed a consistent increase in target sounds during postsession observations in the pairing condition for some, not all, participants. Procedural limitations as well as practical and theoretical implications are discussed.

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