Assessing Relational Learning Deficits in Perspective-Taking in Children With High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder
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Perspective-taking, or the ability to demonstrate awareness of informational states in oneself and in others, has been of recent interest in behavioral psychology. This is, in part, a result of a modern behavioral approach to human language and cognition known as Relational Frame Theory, which views perspectivetaking as generalized operant behavior based upon a history of reinforcement for relational responding. Previous lines of research have developed a behavioral protocol for assessing relational learning deficits in perspective-taking and have implicated the lack of perspective-taking as a basis for the social deficits observed in children with autism. However, no empirical investigations have been conducted on relational learning deficits in perspective-taking with autistic populations. The present paper reports 2 experiments that investigated whether children with autism spectrum disorder demonstrated relational learning deficits in a perspective-taking task as compared to their age-matched typicalill developing peers. We also investigated whether accuracy in perspective-taking correlated with scores on standardized instruments commonly used in the assessment of autism spectrum disorder, and whether relational responding in perspective-taking improves following a history of reinforcement for such responding. Results of Experiment 1 demonstrated statistically significant differences in errors as a function of type of relation, while visual inspection revealed that partiCipants with autism spectrum disorder made more errors than typically developing children on 2 of the 3 types of relations examined. Results of Experiment 2 illustrated that a history of reinforced relational responding improved performance on the perspective-taking task.
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