Academic journal article The Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention

The Effects of a Peer-Yoked Contingency on Observational Learning and the Collateral Emergence of Naming

Academic journal article The Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention

The Effects of a Peer-Yoked Contingency on Observational Learning and the Collateral Emergence of Naming

Article excerpt


We tested the effects of a Peer-Yoked Contingency on students' acquisition of observational learning repertoires and collateral effects on naming. Three male middle school participants, diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disabilities, were selected for this study. The three participants did not have naming repertoires, and two of the three participants did not have observational learning repertoires prior to the study. A delayed multiple probe design across participants was used to determine whether naming and observational learning would emerge as a function of a peer-yoked contingency involving training in observational learning. Naming was tested following each session of observational learning instruction. Results demonstrated that naming emerged as a function of the peer-yoked contingency and correct responses to observed learn units increased during probe sessions.


Humans learn from other human beings via observation. Learning as a function of observation occurs in many different types of situations and is a significant part of human learning. Humans can learn social behavior, cultural behavior, and academic behavior by observing another (Gautreaux, 2005). Catania (2007) defined observational learning as "learning based on observing the behaviors of another organism." More specifically, observational learning occurs when an observer observes the direct contingencies received by another and subsequently emits the target behavior observed (DaviesLackey, 2004; Gautreaux, 2005; Pereira-Delgado, 2005; Greer & Ross, 2007; Greer, Singer, & Gautreaux, 2006; Stolfi, 2005; Yuan, 2005). In other words, one learns new operants from observing others without receiving direct contact with the reinforcement or corrections.

Greer et al. (2006) suggested that there are five different types of learning or changes in performance that can be learned via observation: (a) a behavior that is already in one's repertoire, or a performance task can be emitted as a function of observation, (b) a new operant can be learned by observation, (c) higher order operants can be learned by observation, (d) reinforcers can be conditioned by means of observing another, and (e) a complete observational learning repertoire can be acquired via observation.

Greer et al. (2006) distinguished between the maintenance of performance behaviors, or behaviors already in one's repertoire, and the learning new behaviors, not previously found in one's repertoire, as a function of observation. Much of the prior literature in the effects of observation were devoted to performance rather than learning; hence we address only those studies devoted to learning of new operants as a function of observation or observation as the dependent variable. For example, Brody, Lahey, & Combs (1978) compared modeling of adjectives to describe pictures to no modeling. In each of the control (no modeling) and experimental groups (modeling) there was no direct reinforcement delivered following the emission of target responses. The authors found, that the modeling group's correct responses increased while the no modeling group's responses were consistent with baseline responses.

The acquisition of new operants as a function of children with disabilities observing typically developing peers has been demonstrated in some studies. In such studies the typically developing peer was considered a "model" for the target participants. Egel, Richman, and Koegel (1981) demonstrated the emission of new types of discrimination after participants diagnosed with autism observed a typically developing peer. Goldstein and Mousetis (1989) found that participants with language delays emitted new social behavior that they observed typically developing peers emit. Similarly, Schoen and Ogden (1995) demonstrated the acquisition of new sight words in at risk students after observing typically developing peers learn these sight words. …

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