The purpose of this study was to systematically determine whether lowfunctioning autistic children [MA of approximately half of their CA or less] could learn through observation by the use of a peer modeling procedure. Since modeling is less structured than traditional one-on-one procedures, it was also thought that modeling might facilitate subsequent generalization of tasks learned through observation. Four autistic children were taught two receptive labeling tasks. One task was taught by a traditional trial and error procedure, while the other task was taught by a modeling procedure wherein the models were other autistic children. Results indicated that all four children learned through observation of their peer model. Additionally, generalization and maintenance of correct responding were superior when the children learned through observation rather than by trial and error. These results are discussed in terms of the modeling literature, generalization issues, and implications for designing teaching settings for autistic children.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Apolloni, T., Cooke, S. A., & Cooke, T. P. Establishing a normal peer as a behavioral model for developmentally delayed toddlers.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1976,43, 1155–1162.
Bandura, A. Influence of model's reinforcement contingencies on acquisition of imitative responses.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1965,1, 589–595.
Bandura, A., Grusec, J. E., & Menlove, F. L. Vicarious extinction of avoidance behavior.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1967,5, 16–23.
Bandura, A., & Kupers, C. J. Transmission of patterns of self reinforcement through modeling.Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1964,69, 1–9.
Bandura, S., & Walters, R.Social learning and personality development. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963.
Barry, N. J., & Overman, P. B. Comparison of the effectiveness of adult and peer models with EMR children.American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 1977,82, 33–36.
Clark, B. S. The acquisition and extinction of peer imitation in children.Psychonomic Science, 1965,2, 147.
Coleman, S. L., & Stedman, J. M. Use of a peer model in language training in an echolalic child.Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 1974,5, 275–279.
Cuvo, A. L., Klevans, L., Borakove, S., Borakove, L. S., Van Landuyt, J., & Lutzker, J. R. A comparison of three strategies for teaching object names.Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1980,13, 249–257.
Cuvo, A. J., & Riva, M. T. Generalization and transfer between comprehension and production: A comparison of retarded and nonretarded persons.Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1980,13, 315–331.
Dunlap, G., & Koegel, E. L. Motivating autistic children through stimulus variation.Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1980,13, 619–627.
Egel, A. L., Richman, G., & Koegel, R. L. Normal peer models and autistic children's learning.Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1981,14, 3–12.
Gellermann, L. W. Chance orders at alternating stimuli in visual discrimination experiments.Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1933,42, 206–208.
Hartup, W. W., & Coates, B. Imitation of a peer as a function of reinforcement from the peer group and rewardingness of the model.Child Development, 1967,38, 1003–1016.
Hewett, F. M. Teaching speech to autistic children through operant conditioning.American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1965,35, 927–936.
Hicks, D. J. Imitation and retention of film-mediated aggressive peer and adult models.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1965,2, 97–100.
Kanner, L. Autistic disturbances of affective contact.Nervous Child, 1943,2, 217–250.
Kazdin, A. Covert modeling, model similarity and reduction of avoidance behavior.Behavior Therapy, 1974,5, 325–340.
Koegel, R. L., & Rincover, A. Research on the differences between generalization and maintenance in extra-therapy responding.Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1977,10, 1–12.
Kornhaber, R. C., & Schroeder, H. E. Importance of model similarity on extinction of avoidance behavior in children.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1975,5, 601–607.
Metz, J. R. Conditioning generalized peer imitation in autistic children.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1966,2, 389–399.
O'Connor, R. D. Motivation of social withdrawal through symbolic modeling.Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1969,2, 15–22.
Peterson, C., Peterson, J., & Scriven, G. Peer imitation by nonhandicapped and handicapped preschoolers.Exceptional Children, 1977,43, 223–224.
Rauer, S. A., Coole, T. P., & Apolloni, T. Developing nonretarded toddlers as verbal models for retarded classmates.Child Study Journal, 1978,8, 1–8.
Rimland, B.Infantile autism. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1964.
Ritvo, E. R., & Freeman, B. J. National Society for Autistic Children definition of the syndrome of autism.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1978,8, 139–161.
Rosekrans, M. A. Imitation in children as a function of perceived similarity to a social model and vicarious reinforcement.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1967,7, 307–315.
Rutter, M. Diagnosis and definition of childhood autism.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1978,8, 139–161.
Schroeder, G. L., & Baer, D. M. Effects of concurrent and serial training on generalized vocal imitation in retarded children.Developmental Psychology, 1972,6, 293–301.
Stokes, T. F., & Baer, D. M. An implicit technology of generalization.Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1977,10, 349–367.
Varni, J. W., Lovaas, O. I., Koegel, R. L., & Everett, N. L., An analysis of observational learning in autistic and normal children.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 1979,7, 31–43.
Wing, L. Diagnosis, clinical description, and prognosis. In L. Wing (Ed.),Early childhood autism. London: Pergamon Press, 1976.
Wing, L. Social, behavioral, and cognitive characteristics: An epidemiological approach. In M. Rutter & E. Schopler (Eds.),Autism: A reappraisal of concepts and treatment. New York: Plenum Press, 1978.
This research was supported by USPHS Research Grants MH 28231 and MH 29210 from the National Institute of Mental Health. The authors would like to acknowledge Paul Lizotte for his assistance.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Charlop, M.H., Schreibman, L. & Tryon, A.S. Learning through observation: The effects of peer modeling on acquisition and generalization in autistic children. J Abnorm Child Psychol 11, 355–366 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00914244
- Modeling Procedure
- Autistic Child
- Teaching Setting
- Error Procedure
- Modeling Literature