Date of Award

Spring 4-29-2021

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis and Clinical Science


Health Professions

Committee Member(s)

Dr. (April) Michele Williams, BCBA-D

Dr. Stephanie da Silva, BCBA-D

Dr. Kara Wunderlich, BCBA-D

Supervising Faculty Member

Dr. (April) Michele Williams, BCBA-D


The stimulus pairing observation procedure (SPOP; e.g., Byrne et al., 2014) and the stimulus-stimulus pairing procedure (SSP; e.g., Esch et al., 2009) both involve training early language skills (i.e., tacts and listener responding in SPOP; vocalizations in SSP) by contriving social interactions that typically take place in the natural environment. In an analysis of the many procedural variations to increase the effectiveness of SSP, da Silva and Williams (2020) reviewed autoshaping research outcomes and suggested a variety of ways to increase the salience of the stimuli being paired to enhance learning. The present study followed the recommendation to vary the ITI to make stimuli more salient and pairings less predictable, recommended for stimulus pairing procedures, to observe the effects on tact and listener responses (da Silva and Williams, 2020). In the present study, all participants have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and scored within Level 1 of the VB-MAPP. Listener responding increased relative to baseline, but tact responses remained near zero following SPOP instruction. Our procedural modification increased listener responding, but there was no change for tact repertoires. This research will add to the burgeoning research on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of stimulus pairing procedures for language acquisition.


Portions of this research project were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2021. Appropriate precautions were implemented to protect the health of both researchers and participants. Consequently, the thesis requirements and expectations for Rollins College students were modified during this academic year to ensure quality research experience while also maintaining safety.

Rights Holder

Jennifer Brennan