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Behav Anal. 2004 Fall;27(2):197-207.

Toward a behavioral analysis of joint attention.

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  • 1Psychological Sciences Division, UMMS Shriver Center, 200 Trapelo Road, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA.


Joint attention (JA) initiation is defined in cognitive-developmental psychology as a child's actions that verify or produce simultaneous attending by that child and an adult to some object or event in the environment so that both may experience the object or event together. This paper presents a contingency analysis of gaze shift in JA initiation. The analysis describes reinforcer-establishing and evocative effects of antecedent objects or events, discriminative and conditioned reinforcing functions of stimuli generated by adult behavior, and socially mediated reinforcers that may maintain JA behavior. A functional analysis of JA may describe multiple operant classes. The paper concludes with a discussion of JA deficits in children with autism spectrum disorders and suggestions for research and treatment.

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