A Component Analysis of the Effects of Contingent Social Attention on Stereotypic Behavior in Blind Retardates
Thompson, Linda E.
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The problem: The components comprising contingent social attention were examined for their effects on stereotypic behaviors in blind retardates. Procedure: Social attention was tested as a positive reinforcer for three blind institutionalized retardates before treatment conditions began. The effect of verbal praise on the performance of three motor exercises was assessed. During treatment conditions, the effects of the experimenter's presence in the treatment room, noncontingent conversation with the experimenter, contingent praise for not emitting stereotypies during a prescribed time interval, and noncontingent conversation plus contingent praise were examined for all subjects. A reversal procedure was implemented with experimental conditions followed by a return to baseline phase. Overcorrection procedures were implemented when no effects of the above conditions on stereotypic behavior were observed. Data were taken on the ward of the institution to test for generalization of treatment effects on stereotypic behavior outside the experimental sessions. Findings: For the reinforcer test, a functional relationship was demonstrated between choice of exercise and social reinforcement. Consequation of a particular response selection with verbal praise resulted in a higher frequency of selection than when selection of other responses was consequated. During treatment conditions, stereotypic responses did not decrease until contingent praise for not emitting stereotypies was presented. Overcorrection procedures were necessary to reduce the frequency of stereotypic responses in one of the three subjects. Generalization of treatment effects on stereotypic behavior to the ward was not demonstrated. Conclusion: If social attention has been demonstrated to be a positive reinforcing stimulus, contingent verbal praise for not emitting stereotypies should be considered as an effective method for decreasing sterotypic responding in blind institutionalized retardates. The experimenter's presence and noncontingent conversation appeared to have little or no effect on stereotypic responding. Recommendations: Further research would include generalization of treatment effects outside the treatment sessions. To aid generalization of effects across situations and persons, similar procedures could be implemented using institutional staff and residents as paraprofessionals both on the ward and in school settings.
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