Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Corey S. Stocco

First Committee Member

Matthew Normand

Second Committee Member

Nicole Rodriguez


The behavior of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can influence caregiver responses that lead to countertherapeutic outcomes. However, there are few experimental evaluations of variables that can cause potentially undesirable interactions between those with ASD and their caregivers. Specifically, little is known about the effects of listener interest on the restricted topics presented by caregivers. We evaluated the influence of listener responses exhibited by a confederate acting as a person with ASD on the topics presented by three undergraduate students who were interested in working with individuals diagnosed with ASD. Each session consisted of a 5-min conversation, during which the participant was instructed to talk about three topics. We compared the duration of topic presentation across phases in which the confederate behaved as an interested listener for one topic or for all three topics. Results showed that topic presentation was controlled by the confederate’s behavior as an interested or uninterested listener. All participants reported that the simulation was believable, acceptable, and useful. These findings have implications for understanding interactions between caregivers and individuals with ASD that might foster restricted interests and for developing corresponding interventions and caregiver-training programs.



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