An investigation of factors contributing to the 'overselective' responding of mentally retarded children

Butler, Gordon Stuart (1979) An investigation of factors contributing to the 'overselective' responding of mentally retarded children. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

Previous research has suggested that normal, mentally retarded, and autistic children with Mental Ages (MAs) of less than 5 or 6 years are more restricted in the number of components they learn when presented with a relevant redundant cue (RRC) discrimination problem than are older MA children. There has been a tendency to attribute the poor performance of the young MA children to limited breadth of attention. However, this assumes that young, as well as old MA children learn the RRC discriminations by attending to the individual cues which form the stimuli. This may not be the case. -- In addition to component learning, two alternative learning processes were investigated. In compound learning, the child is assumed to learn the S⁺ in the RRC task as a unit, i.e. the components are not learned separately. In configurational learning, the child learns a directional response based on the arrangement or configuration of both the stimuli. It has been reported that young MA children are more likely to employ compound and configurational responding than older MA children. It was, therefore, hypothesized that the stimulus overselectivity exhibited by young MA children does not arise from limited breadth of attention, but rather that it results from a type of learning which does not focus on the individual components which form the stimuli. -- In Experiment 1, young MA (mean of 49.2 months) and old MA (78.0 months) mentally retarded boys were trained on a task which could be learned using compounds, configurations, or components. It was found that the younger MA boys made significantly fewer component responses than did the older MA boys. Furthermore, the younger MA boys made significantly more configurational responses to colour than to form or junk stimuli. -- In Experiment 2, young (48.6 months) and old (83.8 months) MA mentally retarded boys were presented with a series of successive or simultaneous discriminations. The stimuli were colour-form compounds. For the configurational learner, the successive and simultaneous discriminations should be of equal difficulty to learn, while for the component or compound learner, the successive discrimination should be more difficult. It was found that the young MA retarded boys found the two problems to be equally difficult, as indicated by trials and errors to criterion. In contrast, the older boys found the successive problem more difficult than the simultaneous problem. An examination of the component learning indicated that only the older MA boys in the simultaneous condition exhibited any appreciable amount of component learning. The other groups performed slightly above chance when tested on components. -- The results of both experiments suggest that the poor component learning exhibited by young MA children in RRC tasks probably results from these children attending to configurations rather than to components.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7602
Item ID: 7602
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 87-90.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: 1979
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Discrimination learning; Children with mental disabilities--Psychological testing

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