Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Wacker, David P

Second Advisor

Northup, John A

First Committee Member

Berg, Wendy K

Second Committee Member

Ehly, Stewart W

Third Committee Member

Hollingworth, Liz


There has been recent interest in the field of applied behavior analysis in language as an independent variable. This study constitutes the second study in a line of programmatic research investigating the influence of the practices of the verbal community, or language, on children's preferences and reinforcers. Stimulus and language preferences of four children with disabilities who were exposed to Spanish and English in their natural environment were evaluated during three sequentially administered paired-stimulus preference assessments across three contexts: attention/talking, tangible/playing, and demands/working. The purposes of this study were to (a) identify whether participants displayed a language preference and if so, if their language preference was consistent across the three social contexts; (b) evaluate the interaction between language and stimulus preference within each context; and (c) descriptively compare whether participants' language proficiency in their L1 and L2 was related to their language preferences. The results of this study showed that (a) children demonstrated language preferences for their L1 or L2, and these preferences were not always consistent across social context; (b) all children showed displacement of stimuli across the preference hierarchy due to language, but the magnitude of the displacement varied across context and participant; and (c) participants' language proficiency as reported by their mothers did not always predict the participants' language preference. These results extend the preference assessment literature by suggesting that the language of presentation may influence the results of preference assessments and that the influence of language may vary across context. The results also suggest that the influence of cultural practices, such as language, on behavioral assessments should be evaluated at the individual level.


applied behavior analysis, culture, disability, language, preferences


ix, 162 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 148-162).


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Copyright © 2012 Yaniz Cristina Padilla Dalmau