Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Derived Relational Responding and Intelligence: Assessing the Relationship between the PEAK-E Pre-Assessment and IQ with Individuals with Autism and Related Disabilities

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Derived Relational Responding and Intelligence: Assessing the Relationship between the PEAK-E Pre-Assessment and IQ with Individuals with Autism and Related Disabilities

Article excerpt

The field of differential psychology has firmly established that people who perform well on some tasks are more likely to perform well on other tasks (see Deary, Penke, & Johnson, 2010), a phenomenon that has spawned over a century of research on intelligence quotient (IQ) testing (Sternberg, Grigorenko, & Bundy, 2001). IQ tests traditionally measure various behaviors hypothesized to indicate "intelligent behavior," or the ability to think abstractly and adapt to environmental changes (Sternberg & Detterman, 1986; Terman, 1921; Wechsler, 1997). Skills assessed in conventional IQ testing often include general adaptive skills such as problem solving, logical reasoning, vocabulary, and fluency. Although behavioral scientists have philosophically rejected the hypothetical construct of intelligence as a "cause" of intelligent behavior (i.e., behaviors assessed in contemporary intelligence tests) (Schlinger, 1992), attempts have been made to provide a behavioral account of the factors that influence intelligent behavior (e.g., Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001; Schlinger, 2003), and behavior analytic treatment approaches have demonstrated efficacy in improving participant performance on standardized IQ tests (e.g., Lovaas, 1987; Sallows & Graupner, 2005; Smith, Eikeseth, Klevstrand, & Lovaas, 1997). The behavioral position and related empirical data do not support the premise that intelligence is a trait variable determined by some internal factor that is static over an individual's lifetime; rather there seem to be environmental factors that select intelligent behavior, and these factors can be manipulated to bring intelligent behavior under operant control (Cassidy, Roche, & O'Hora, 2010; Schlinger, 1992). In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of individuals diagnosed with developmental and intellectual disabilities, with an increase of 17.1% for children between the ages of 3 and 17 years from 1997 to 2008, and in which the number of individuals diagnosed with autism has increased by 289.5% (Boyle, Boulet, Schieve, Cohen, Blumberg, Yeargin-Allsopp, & Kogan, 2011). Although an autism diagnosis does not necessarily indicate diminished functioning, Charman, Pickles, Simonoff, Chandler, Loucas, and Baird (2011) found that 55% of children from an autism sample had an IQ of less than 70 (intellectual disability) and 16% had an IQ of less than 50 (moderate to severe intellectual disability). As IQ scores are predictive of successful functioning in many domains, such as academic achievement (see Brody, 1997) and job performance (Wagner, 1997), identifying the factors that influence intelligent behavior is a socially significant undertaking for behavioral scientists that may have special utility in application with individuals with disabilities such as autism.

Although Skinner (1953) firmly rejected the need for intelligence as a mediational construct in explaining human behavior, he provided an analysis of factors that govern the types of complex behaviors typically evaluated in IQ tests (i.e., logic, problem solving, thinking, etc.) in his book Verbal Behavior (1957). Verbal Behavior provided a conceptualization of human language that was consistent with an operant analysis of behavior. In this account, Skinner proposed that verbal behavior was brought under the operant control of the behavior of a speaker, who served as the mediator of reinforcement and punishment (Skinner, 1957). The focus of Skinner's account was on how direct contingencies influenced verbal behavior development. A mand, for example, occurred when a speaker specified a reinforcer and was subsequently reinforced by the presentation of the reinforcer specified (e.g., a speaker emits the vocal utterance "apple," and the utterance is reinforced by the contingent delivery of an apple). Although Skinner (1957) did discuss more broadly the potentially generative nature of human language, a clear focus was placed on how language learning occurred through a history of direct reinforcement (O'Toole, Barnes-Holmes, Murphy, O'Connor, and Barnes-Holmes, 2009), leading to subsequent criticisms of a Skinnerian approach to language development, most notably those put forward by Chomsky (1959) and more recently by Hayes et al. …

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