UMMS Affiliation

University of Massachusetts Medical School, Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Adult; Association Learning; *Attention; *Discrimination Learning; Education of Mentally Retarded; Female; Humans; Male; Mental Retardation; *Pattern Recognition, Visual; *Probability Learning; *Psychomotor Performance; Token Economy


Neurology | Psychiatry


Experimenters and teachers use discrimination learning procedures to encourage reliable attending to stimulus differences defined as relevant for their purposes. Put another way, the goal of discrimination training is to establish high-probability stimulus control topographies that are coherent with experimenter or teacher specifications. The present research was conducted to investigate a novel procedure for encouraging stimulus control topography coherence. Participants were 13 adolescents with severe intellectual handicaps. During an initial Condition A, all were exposed to a simultaneous discrimination procedure. Participants could select a form alternating with a black field (S+) or an identical form that did not alternate (S-). Accuracy scores were typically low, and there was little evidence of coherent stimulus control topographies. Subsequently, the procedure was changed. During Condition B, every trial initially presented two identical nonalternating S- forms (Trial State 1). If the participant made no selection for 5 s, one of the forms began to alternate with the black field, and he or she could make the S+/S- discrimination (Trial State 2). Selections during Trial State I prolonged the delay to Trial State 2 until there had been no response for 5 s. During Condition B, S+/S- discrimination accuracy scores improved rapidly and markedly for most participants. Reinstating Condition A often resulted in diminished accuracy scores. This study thus (a) demonstrated a novel procedure for encouraging stimulus control topography coherence and (b) provided support for the interpretation that intermediate accuracy scores may be due to different topographies of stimulus control that co-occur in the same discriminative baseline.

DOI of Published Version



J Exp Anal Behav. 2002 Mar;77(2):189-98. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID