Rule-Governed Behavior: Teaching a Preliminary Repertoire of Rule-Following to Children with Autism

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APA Citation: 

Tarbox, J., Zuckerman, C. K., Bishop, M. R., Olive, M. L., & O’Hora, D. P. (2011). Rule-governed behavior: Teaching a preliminary repertoire of rule-following to children with autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 27, 125-139.

Publication Topic: 
Behavior Analysis: Empirical
Education: Empirical
RFT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
rule-governed behavior, rule-following, instructional control, conditionality, autism, relational frame theory

Rule-governed behavior is generally considered an integral component of complex verbal repertoires but has rarely been the subject of empirical research. In particular, little or no previous research has attempted to establish rule-governed behavior in individuals who do not already display the repertoire. This study consists of two experiments which evaluated multiple exemplar training procedures for teaching a simple component skill which may be necessary for developing a repertoire of rule-governed behavior. In both experiments, children with autism were taught to respond to simple rules which specified antecedents and the behaviors which should occur in their presence. In the first study, participants were taught to respond to rules containing “if/then” statements, where the antecedent was specified before the behavior. The second experiment was a replication and extension of the first. It involved a variation on the manner in which rules were presented. Both experiments eventually demonstrated generalization to novel rules for all participants; however variations to the standard procedure were required for several participants. Results suggest that rule-following can be analyzed and taught as generalized operant behavior and implications for future research are discussed.

<p> Used multiple exemplar training to teach children with autism to understand novel rules specifying antecedents and behaviors.</p>