Faculty Publications


Social influences on "self-stimulatory" behavior: Analysis and treatment application.

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

V. Mark Durand

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued

January 1987

Date Available

April 2013




We tested the hypothesis that the "self-stimulatory" behaviors exhibited by some individuals may be socially mediated. Four developmentally disabled children who exhibited hand flapping and body rocking participated in a series of three experiments conducted to assess the influence of social variables on stereotyped behavior and to develop a treatment based on the assessment. Experiment 1 used an assessment procedure to determine the relative influences of social attention and task demands on stereotyped behavior. For all four children, hand flapping and body rocking increased when difficult academic tasks were introduced. Experiment 2 involved the use of a procedural timeout and demonstrated that removing task demands contingent on stereotyped behavior resulted in increased rates of hand flapping and body rocking. In Experiment 3, these results were used to develop a communication treatment that consisted of teaching the children to request assistance on the difficult tasks. This treatment resulted in significant reductions in self-stimulatory behavior. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that some forms of repetitive stereotyped behavior may come to serve social functions (e.g., escape from aversive situations). Teaching a functionally equivalent communicative alternative to escape-motivated stereotyped behavior can be an effective form of intervention for this problem.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available only through licensed access provided by the publisher. Published in Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 20, 119 132. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1987.20-119. Portions reprinted in: Carr, E.G. (1986). Functional equivalence as a mechanism of response generalization. In R.H. Horner, G. Dunlap, & R.L. Koegel (Eds.). Generalization and maintenance: Life style changes in applied settings, (pp. 221 241). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes. Portions reprinted in: Miltenberger, R.G. (1996). Behavior Modification. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole Publishing Co. Portions to be reprinted in: Scott, J., Clark, C., & Brady. M. (Eds.) (1999). Students with autism: Characteristics and instructional programming. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.




Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.