The Effects of a Stimulus-Stimulus Pairing Procedure on the Vocal Behavior of Children Diagnosed with Autism
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Recent research suggests that the sound produced by a child’s vocalization can become a conditioned reinforcer via the temporal pairing of an experimenter’s vocal model with a preferred stimulus delivered to the child. The current study replicated and extended the findings of previous studies in this area. A multiple baseline design across vocal behaviors (combined with a reversal to baseline) was used to evaluate the effects of a stimulus-stimulus pairing procedure on one-syllable utterances of 3 boys who had been diagnosed with autism. Data were collected during presession and postsession observations across four conditions: baseline, control, pairing, and reversal. During baseline, the free-operant levels of target sounds were recorded in the absence of experimenter interaction. During the control condition, the experimenter presented a vocal model and, after a 20-s delay, presented a preferred stimulus to the child. During the pairing condition, the experimenter’s vocal model was paired with the delivery of the preferred item. Results from postsession observations during the pairing condition showed an increase in target sounds for 2 participants. This outcome may suggest that the children’s vocalizations were automatically reinforced, albeit only temporarily. Practical and theoretical implications of the results are discussed along with the specific methods employed in this literature.
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