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Maintenance and transfer of academic behavior in children with autism: the role of intrinsic motivation Open Access


Other title
intrinsic motivation
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Lynch, Shane Lorne
Supervisor and department
Pierce, David (Sociology)
Cameron, Judy (Educational Psychology)
Buck, George (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Sobsey, Richard (Educational Psychology)
McQuarrie, Lynn (Educational Psychology)
Harrington, Scott (College of Education)
Department of Educational Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Educational programs for children with autism rely on the use of extrinsic rewards to increase children’s motivation to participate. However, maintenance and transfer of intervention gains remains problematic. Research with typically developing children and adults has shown that extrinsic rewards can have differing effects on intrinsic motivation. That is, the ways in which rewards are administered (reward contingency, interpersonal context) can increase, decrease, or leave an individual’s intrinsic motivation unaffected. The present research examined whether these characteristics would increase the intrinsic motivation of children with autism, and whether observed increases maintained and generalized to novel contexts. In two different studies, children with autism were given performance-based rewards for engaging in academic activities in both choice and no-choice conditions. Each correct response earned the children one token that was exchangeable for one minute of time with their preferred reward. In some conditions, children were offered opportunities to make choices during the activity, whereas in other conditions, choice making was not allowed. Results indicated that children’s intrinsic motivation for the academics was neither undermined nor enhanced following the receipt of the reward. Further, children showed a clear preference for the academic subject associated with enhanced choice. These results were discussed in terms of Skinner’s behavioral theory and cognitive evaluation theory. The limitations, as well as the practical implications, are also discussed.
License granted by Shane Lynch ( on 2010-09-29T19:16:03Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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