Rule-Governed Behavior: Teaching Social Skills via Rule-Following to Children with Autism

Rachel L. Bradley, Louisiana State University, Old Dominion University, USA.
George H. Noell, Louisiana State University, Old Dominion University, USA.


Rule-governed behavior (RGB) is behavior that is controlled by verbal descriptions of contingencies rather than by direct contact or a history of direct contact with the contingencies. Humans rely on RGB to navigate a multitude of life experiences, and in doing so, we avoid direct contact with destructive or harmful contingencies or contingencies that would be inefficient to contact. However, individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) frequently struggle with RGB, leaving them at increased risk of contacting aversive consequences. As a result, acquiring RGB can be a valuable developmental outcome for individuals with ASD. The current study examined the effectiveness of an intervention program designed to promote acquisition and generalization of rule-governed social skills in children with ASD. Multiple exemplar training (MET) resulted in increased performance of the target behavior as well as successful discrimination.