Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Establishing Transfer of Compound Control in Children: A Stimulus Control Analysis

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Establishing Transfer of Compound Control in Children: A Stimulus Control Analysis

Article excerpt

Stimuli with a same history tend to be equivalent, that is, substitutable for one another. Two forms of equivalence can be distinguished, stimulus equivalence and functional equivalence. Stimulus equivalence is indicated when stimulus substitution shows the mathematical properties of reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity (Sidman, 1994). For example, after being trained to relate samples B1 and C1 to comparison A1 (and not to A2), and samples B2 and C2 to comparison A2 (and not to A1), most verbal humans will, without further training, relate all same-class B and C stimuli conditionally to one another (B1-C1, B2-C2; C1-B1, C2-B2). B1 and C1 have a history of being conditionally related to A1 (and not to A2), thus B1-C1. Functional equivalence is indicated when transfer across same-class stimuli is evident. Functional equivalence has been defined in terms of emergent stimulus-response and stimulus-stimulus relations (for extensive reviews, see Astley & Wasserman, 1999; Saunders, Williams, & Spradlin, 1996). I n the study by Wasserman and DeVolder (1993), for example, 4- and 5-year-old children were trained to place multiple exemplars of each of four different stimulus categories (flowers, chairs, people, and cars) at two different locations of a quadrant: flowers and chairs at the top right corner, and people and cars at the bottom left corner (initial training). Then they were trained to place flowers at the top left corner and cars at the bottom right corner of another quadrant (reassignment training). During subsequent probes, most children placed the nonreassigned stimuli (chairs and people) at the same locations as the reassigned same-class stimuli (chairs: top left, people: bottom right). These findings were similar to those obtained with pigeons (Astley & Wasserman, 1999; Wasserman, DeVolder, & Coppage, 1992) and have been replicated and extended in subsequent child studies (Smeets, Barnes, & Roche, 1997; Smeets, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001) in both of which abstract stimuli were used.

Except for two studies by Perez-Gonzalez (1994) and Perez-Gonzalez and Serna (1993), there have been no functional equivalence studies involving stimulus compounds. Yet, compounds are much more common in the natural environment than unitary stimuli (Stromer & Stromer, 1990). In the studies by Perez-Gonzalez, adults and 10- to 16-year-old (pre)adolescents received match-to-sample training on three A-B relations (A1-B1, A2-B2, A3-B3) and on similar P-Q relations (P1-Q1, P2-Q2, P3-Q3). Then they received further match-to-sample training with AB compounds as samples and unitary X stimuli as comparisons (AB-X). The participants received positive feedback for selecting X1 when given any of three AB compounds representing sample-correct comparison relations (A1B1, A2B2, A3B3), and for selecting X2 when given any of the six compounds representing sample-incorrect comparison relations (e.g., A2B1, A1B3). Finally, probes were presented with PQ compounds as samples and X stimuli as comparisons (PQ-X). Most participants showed transfer from AB to PQ (e.g., P1Q1-X1, P1Q2-X2), albeit some of them only after repeated training and testing.

The present study was an effort to replicate the work by Perez-Gonzalez with 5-year-old normally developing preschool children. Previous studies have shown that, after a history of responding to a particular set of tasks (e.g., simple discriminations) or (unitary) stimuli, mentally young populations frequently do not adapt their performances when more complex tasks (e.g., conditional discriminations) or stimuli (compounds) are introduced (Singh & Solman, 1990; Smeets, Barnes, Schenk, & Darcheville, 1996; Stromer, McIlvane, Dube, & Mackay, 1993). Specifically, the current research examined whether, following conditional discrimination training with unitary stimuli (A-B and P-Q), procedures that had been successfully used for training the AB-X relations and testing transfer (PQ-X) in older children and adults in previous research (Carpentier, Smeets, & Barnes-Holmes, 2000; Perez-Gonzalez 1994, Perez-Gonzalez & Serna, 1993) would be appropriate for preschoolers. …

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