Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. R. Wayne Fuqua

Second Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi

Third Advisor

Dr. Kristal Ehrhard

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Individuals with diagnosed autism typically show deficiencies in discrimination of facial cues. The ability to respond to facial expressions was assessed and trained with 3 four-year-old subjects diagnosed with autism. Stimulus presentations involved four different stimulus sets ( cards with stick figure, cards with cartoon figures, and cards with photographs of a man and a woman displaying the emotional expression).

Training consisted of differential reinforcement of correct responses. The experimental design was a multiple baseline across stimulus sets, with generalization probes conducted after mastery level of performance was reached on each stimulus set. Some evidence of generalization was observed on yet to be trained stimulus sets. A session using videotaped of actors displaying each of the target emotions, revealed levels of discrimination (90% for two of the subjects) for the participants that approximated that of normally developing children exposed to the same video. This study extends prior research in two ways: it demonstrates that preschool aged children can acquire complex discriminations involving facial cues, and it represents the first report of stimulus generalization of facial expressions across novel stimulus sets.

Included in

Psychology Commons