Academic journal article The Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis

Effects of Conditioning Reinforcement for Print Stimuli on Match-to-Sample Responding in Preschoolers

Academic journal article The Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis

Effects of Conditioning Reinforcement for Print Stimuli on Match-to-Sample Responding in Preschoolers

Article excerpt

Introduction

One of the major challenges in the fields of education, psychology, and speech therapy is to develop science based research procedures to teach children with language disabilities how to acquire repertoires for learning more complex verbal skills. Keohane, Delgado, and Greer (2008) argue that the foundations for the development of early verbal language in children consists of a child's observing responses such as looking, listening, tasting, smelling and touching. When observing responses such as looking and making sustained eye contact with adults and other visual stimuli do not function as conditioned reinforcement for children, these children fail to develop a correspondence between what they hear and see concurrently. Moreover, children that lack these conditioned reinforcers for observing responses are likely to find it difficult, if not impossible, to learn more complex skills such as language acquisition, generalized matching and becoming more aware of different stimuli in their environment.

Children with disabilities often have difficulty attending and discriminating among the relevant properties of stimuli to master both basic and generalized matching. Greer and Ross (2008) based on Skinner's (1957) theory of verbal behavior identified this deficit (lack of observing/attention to instructional) stimuli as a developmental capability or "cusp." Drawing on Ruiz and Baer's (1997) treatment of the acquisition of critical repertoires as behavioral developmental cusps, Greer and Ross summarized a body of research that they argue identify several verbal developmental "cusps." They suggest that these building blocks make it possible for children to learn listener and speaker responses and the joining of listener and speaker repertoires that make progressively more complex verbal behavior possible. Ruiz and Baer characterized a developmental cusp as "a special instance of behavior, a change crucial to what can come next...." (p. 533). Several years earlier Staats (1968, p. 267) suggested something like behavioral developmental cusps. Several verbal developmental cusps and stages have been identified in the research literature and described as verbal developmental capabilities. The very earliest foundations for verbal development include cusps that consist of conditioned reinforcement for observing responses (Dinsmoor, 1985; Donahoe & Palmer, 2004; Greer & Ross, 2008)

Recently, Keohane, Greer, & Ackerman (2006), tested the effects of conditioning sustained eye contact with three-dimensional (3D) objects (Visual Tracking Protocol) on the acquisition of matching responses for a participant for whom looking at or observing 3D instructional stimuli on a table that were not reinforcers for visual observing responses. They found that when 3D stimuli were paired with unconditioned reinforcers (e.g. food) until the 3D stimuli alone reinforced observing, the participants' mean-learn-units-to criteria dramatically decreased for learning match-to-sample instruction, and also his attending skills increased. The stimuli were conditioned as reinforcers for observing after the stimulusstimulus paring, which resulted in significant decreases in the numbers of learn units the participants required to master visually related instructional material. The significant acceleration in rate of learning for these participants suggest the role of conditioned reinforcement for observing responses as a developmental cusp, since the participants could learn discriminations they could not learn prior to intervention. The newly conditioned reinforcers for observing responses constituted acquisition of a developmental cusp.

Keohane, Delgado, and Greer (2008), surmised that observing responses in children are tied to and are a result of conditioned reinforcement for observing. When a child is missing this capability, experimentally based conjugate reinforcement procedures or a stimulus-stimulus pairing procedure can be used to induce conditioned reinforcement for observing responses for print and 3D instructional stimuli. …

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