Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Jacobs, Eric


Feedback procedures are an important class of operant behavior change methods used in a wide variety of settings. One innovative method of providing immediate feedback adapted from the animal literature is through the use of an acoustical stimulus, such as a clicker. Methods utilizing this response contingent delivery of acoustic feedback in humans is commercially referred to as TAGteaching. Several studies have documented the effectiveness of this teaching procedure with various human populations. Despite the successes, very little is known of the environmental manipulations necessary to produce desirable effects; and if these effects sustain when this procedure is implemented in clinical settings. Moreover, several authors have asserted that the acoustic stimulus functions like a conditioned reinforcer, however no explicit pairing procedures are traditionally implemented with humans, to establish the functions of contingent deliveries of the acoustic stimulus. The purpose of the current study was twofold; first this study sought to evaluate the role of textual instructions in establishing the functions of response contingent acoustic feedback using a laboratory task. Secondly, this study sought to evaluate the extent to which instructions and acoustic feedback, produce changes in staff and client behaviors in a clinical setting. Study one was conducted across 40 college students and evaluated the role of instructions in establishing the functions of contingent acoustic feedback in the context of a Multistep Experimental Task (MSET). The MSET was adopted from a previous laboratory evaluation of TAGteach (Smith & Lambert, 2014). Participants were assigned to four different experimental groups for both a within-subject and a between-group analysis of performance. Results indicated improved performance for all participants who received both instructions and contingent acoustic feedback, whereas three participants who received acoustic feedback only showed similar improvements. Study two was conducted across three staff participants and sought to evaluate an intervention comprised of in-situ instructions and response contingent acoustic feedback to teach staff to use Behavior Specific Praise procedures (BSP) with clients. Results from a multiple-baseline-across staff design revealed that the intervention increased staff’s rates of BSP in this clinical setting. Additionally, intervention effects were maintained during one to three-week probes. The intervention also maintained client correct responding across different targeted behavior chains. Staff members also rated the acoustic feedback procedure as more worthwhile, helpful, relevant, pleasant, and less disruptive than their typical feedback methods. Both findings provide useful data to support the design and implementation of acoustic feedback procedures in clinical settings. They also provide preliminary data to clarify the antecedent conditions necessary to establish the functions of contingent acoustic feedback.

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