THE ROLE OF ATTENTION IN RETARDATE DISCRIMINATION LEARNING1
Betty J. House
Retardates have been found particularly slow in forming some simple visual habits, even slower than would be expected from their low mental age ( Stevenson & Iscoe, 1955; House & Zeaman, 1958a; House & Zeaman, 1960a; Girardeau, 1959). The reasons for the learning deficit do not seem to lie in the area of instrumental learning, but rather in that of attention. In support of this notion, data from a series of experiments with moderately retarded, trainable children have been collated here and organized by a theory of attention.
The experimental techniques we employ are derived from those of Harlow ( 1959). His Wisconsin General Test apparatus has been adapted for use with retarded children, as it provides a flexible tool for the study of basic discriminative processes. Figure 5-1 depicts the major features of the appa-____________________
We gratefully acknowledge the help of several collaborators. Herbert M. Kaufman developed a number of the equations for extensions of the basic model, in particular the πp submodel. Computer programming was expertly done for us by Lester Hyman. Research contributions were made by USPHS Postdoctoral Fellows, Robert Orlando, Jerome Smith, and Bryan Shepp, as well as a number of others. Without the cooperation of the administration of the Mansfield Training School, Neil Dayton, John Cassell, and Louis Boly, the research reported here would not have been possible.
This work was done in part at the M.I.T. Computation Center, Cambridge, Mass.