Autoshaping of abnormal children

C. William Deckner, Lynn M. Wilcox, Stephen A. Maisto, Richard L. Blanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Three experimentally naive abnormal children were exposed to a terminal operant contingency, i.e., reinforcement was delivered only if the children pressed a panel during intervals when it was lighted. Despite the absence of both successive approximation and manual shaping, it was found that each child began to respond discriminatively within a small number of trials. These data replicated previous animal studies concerned with the phenomena of autoshaping and signal-controlled responding. It was also found, however, that one type of autoshaping, the classical conditioning procedure, had a powerful suppressive effect on discriminative responding. An experimental analysis that consisted of a combination of intrasubject reversal and multiple baseline designs established the internal validity of the findings. The finding of rapid acquisiton of signalcontrolled responding obtained with the initial procedure is suggested to have practical significance. The disruptive effects of the classical form of autoshaping are discussed in terms of negative behavioral contrast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-350
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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