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J Autism Dev Disord. 1994 Dec;24(6):753-72.

Matching to complex samples and stimulus class formation in adults with autism and young children.

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Behavioral Sciences Division, Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, Waltham, Massachusetts 02254.


Adults with autism and young children first learned to match one-element comparison stimuli to two-element sample stimuli. Test conditions then examined whether each of the individual sample elements (a) controlled selections of the comparison stimuli to which they were related during training, (b) were interchangeable with one another as either sample or comparison stimuli, and (c) were interchangeable with the original comparison stimuli. Test data were positive and suggested the formation of three-member stimulus classes. Subsequent experiments demonstrated the formation of four-member classes by (a) adding novel stimuli by training outside the original context; (b) adding novel stimulus elements to the two-element samples used during baseline training; and (c) training with three-element rather than two-element sample stimuli from the outset. Results suggest that acquisition of stimulus classes may be one of the benefits of broad rather than restricted attention to the components of complex stimuli.

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