Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Behavior Analysis and Therapy

First Advisor

Rehfeldt, Ruth Anne

Abstract

Observational learning is defined as the capacity of an organism to acquire new behaviors as a result of viewing the behavior of a model. Researchers argue that learning via observation may account for the natural acquisition of behavior. While the ability to acquire new behaviors through observation has been studied heavily in typically developing children, as well as participants with developmental disabilities, no research has directly addressed observational learning in verbal operants. The current study examined observational learning across three verbal operants: tact, listener responding by feature, function, and class, and intraverbals using a multiple probe design. Two girls diagnosed with autism served as the learner model and observer in the study. The results demonstrated that the learner was able to learn the responses to mastery through direct instruction and reinforcement while the observer learned the responses to mastery through observation. Implications for teaching children with autism are discussed.

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