Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Behavioral Analysis

First Advisor

Catherine Nicholson

Second Advisor

Felipa T. Chavez

Third Advisor

Kaitlynn Gokey

Fourth Advisor

Robert A. Taylor


Skinner (1957) proposed that people learn to talk about private events in several ways. This study sought to examine the plausibility of one of those mechanisms: common properties. Skinner asserted that children learn tacts for public stimuli through normal interaction with their caregivers. When a child experiences a private stimulus that shares some feature with a previously learned public stimulus, the child generalizes the tact to the private sensation because there is a common property between the two stimuli. Three children with autistic disorder were taught 6 to 9 sensation tacts (e.g., prickly, cozy, tight) depicted in videos (e.g., a person touching a cactus, a baby wrapped in a blanket, a person getting their arm squeezed in a blood pressure cuff). Pre- and post-intervention probes evaluated the extent to which the participants could emit the tacts when the sensation was applied to their own body, both when the stimulating object was visible and when it was not. All participants readily learned to tact the public sensations. Two of the three participants demonstrated immediate generalization to the sensations applied to their bodies when the object was in sight. The third participant was directly taught to tact the unlearned novel stimuli. All three participants generalized the sensation tacts to when stimulation was applied, and they could not see the stimulating object. These results lend support for Skinner’s assertion that common properties can facilitate learning to tact private events. The findings of this study will lead to advancements in how to teach children with autism to tact private events.