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Document Type

Article

Abstract

Eighteen undergraduates participated in studies designed to examine the factors that produce transfer of contextual functions to novel stimuli in second-order conditional discriminations. In Study 1, participants selected comparison B1 given sample A1 and comparison B2 given sample A2 in a matching-tCi-sample procedure. Contextual stimuli X1 or X2 were introduced next. In the presence of X1 , selections of B 1 given A 1 and selections of B2 given A2 were reinforced; in the presence of X2, selections of B2 given A 1 and selections of B1 given A2 were reinforced (the XAB relations). The participants then learned novel conditional discriminations with stimuli E and F. When we presented the contextual stimuli X1 and X2 with EF, all 3 participants selected the same and opposite comparisons, respectively, as those previously established in EF training. This performance demonstrated the transfer of functions of contextual stimuli to a conditional discrimination with novel stimuli. In Study 2, participants were exposed to the same teaching and testing conditions as in Study 1, except that stimuli X1 and X2 were introduced in a single phase. Of the 4 participants, 2 showed transfer to a novel conditional discrimination. In Study 3 the selections in the XAB task had no differential consequences. Study 4 replicated the conditions of Study 1, with the exception that the AB phase was not taught. Finally, in Study 1'> the EF phase was not taught. All participants failed to demonstrate contextual control of the novel conditional discrimination. These results demonstrated that a complete sequence of conditional-discrimination teaching plays an important role in the acquisition and transfer of contextual control to novel conditional discriminations. These results are relevant to our understanding of instructional control.

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