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J Exp Child Psychol. 1997 Nov;67(2):115-30.

Blank comparison analysis of emergent symbolic mapping by young children.

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  • 1E.K. Shriver Center, Behavioral Sciences Division, Waltham, MA 02254, USA.


Eight typically developing children first learned to select pictures in response to dictated words in a three-choice matching-to-sample format. Next, the matching-to sample baseline was transformed via a stimulus control shaping procedure: Matching trials displayed two pictures and a third stimulus (termed a "blank" comparison). The blank was to be selected if the dictated sample did not match either of the displayed pictures. The blank comparison baseline was then used to evaluate the children's response to matching displays that presented novel sample and comparison stimuli. The blank comparison method permitted the children to indicate whether the novel sample-comparison pair were related (by selecting the picture) or not related (by selecting the blank). The method was used to evaluate emergent symbolic mapping and learning of new word:picture matching relations by the children. This study illustrates new, potentially more informative methods for analyzing symbol mapping in young children. The methods were shown to have considerable promise for advancing theoretical analyses of emergent mapping in both behavior analytic and developmental language research.

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