Academic Commons

Theses Doctoral

The Induction of Emergent Relations in Children with Severe Cognitive and Language Delays

Howarth, Matthew Charles

In three experiments I sought to experimentally test a source of emergent relations defined as transitivity by Stimulus Equivalence theory or as combinatorial entailment in Relational Frame Theory. In Experiment I, the participants were 4 children diagnosed with autism who also demonstrated significant cognitive and language delays, who were selected for the experiment because of their inability to demonstrate emergent/derived relations during baseline. A time-lagged multiple probe design was utilized to determine the effects of training of a frame of symmetry through the use of a cross modal matching procedure requiring the participants to match auditory stimuli to visual stimuli and conversely visual stimuli to auditory stimuli using a computer program. The dependent variables were the participant's responses to the emergent relations of transitivity/combinatorial entailment, post intervention, with a probe set and a novel set of stimuli, as well as the participant's rate of learning for tacts and textual responses. Three of four participants were able to demonstrate emergent relations following intervention. The participant who did not demonstrate derived relations lacked an echoic repertoire. In Experiment II, I built on the findings of Experiment I to determine if derived relations could be taught visually, without the use of language. Three males with severe language disorders, who did not display emergent relations during baseline, participated in the experiment. A time-lagged multiple probe design, with counterbalanced probes was used to determine the effects of multiple exemplar training across visual relations. The dependent variable was the participant's responses to emergent relation probes following intervention. None of the participants were able to demonstrate derived relations after visual symmetry training. In the third experiment, the same participants and materials were used as Experiment II, however, in Experiment III, a tact was taught for each of the stimulus sets in order to determine the role of the tact in emergent relations. A time lagged multiple probe design, with counterbalanced probes was used. The dependent variable was again participant's responses to emergent relation probes following tact training. All 3 participants were able to demonstrate derived relations with the probe and novel set of stimuli following intervention. Results of all three experiments suggest that both bi-directional/symmetrical relations and verbal operants are necessary for derived relations.


  • thumnail for Howarth_columbia_0054D_10664.pdf Howarth_columbia_0054D_10664.pdf application/x-pdf 1.21 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Behavior Analysis
Thesis Advisors
Greer, R. Douglas
Ph.D., Teachers College
Published Here
May 7, 2012
Academic Commons provides global access to research and scholarship produced at Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary. Academic Commons is managed by the Columbia University Libraries.