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Social Thinking®, Pseudoscientific, Not Empirically Supported, and Non-Evidence Based: a Reply to Crooke and Winner

Abstract

J. B. Leaf et al. (Behavior Analysis in Practice, 9, 152–157, 2016) wrote a commentary on social thinking (ST), an intervention commonly implemented for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The authors described what constitutes scientific, pseudoscientific, and antiscientific evidence and contended that ST aligns with the definition of pseudoscience and, to date, is not empirically supported or evidence based. Crooke and Winner (Behavior Analysis in Practice, 9, 403–408, 2016) responded, arguing that ST meets their definition of an evidence-based practice and identifying purported misconceptions and inaccuracies described by J. B. Leaf et al. In the current article, the authors clarify the original arguments, critically evaluate Crooke and Winner’s definition of what constitutes evidence-based practice, further evaluate the research on ST, discuss issues regarding how ST is conceptualized, and express concerns about the endorsement and use of an eclectic approach to treating ASD. As this response was written by behavior analysts, it specifically addresses the conceptual consistency of this approach from a behavior–analytic worldview.

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Correspondence to Justin B. Leaf.

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Justin B. Leaf speaks at various conferences on the topic of this article, for which he occasionally receives an honorarium. Joseph H. Cihon and Julia L. Ferguson declare that they have no conflicts of interest. Mitchell Taubman, Ronald Leaf, and John McEachin have social curriculum and training materials available for purchase for which they receive royalties. This article does not contain any studies with human or animal participants performed by any of the authors.

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Leaf, J.B., Cihon, J.H., Ferguson, J.L. et al. Social Thinking®, Pseudoscientific, Not Empirically Supported, and Non-Evidence Based: a Reply to Crooke and Winner. Behav Analysis Practice 11, 456–466 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-018-0241-0

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Evidence based
  • Empirically supported
  • Social thinking