Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Scott T. Gaynor

Second Advisor

Dr. Wayne Fuqua

Third Advisor

Dr. Linda LeBlanc

Fourth Advisor

Dr. James Carr

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Abstract

Stimulus equivalence is an empirical phenomenon which demonstrates a process of generative learning pertinent to language development and symbolic communication, whereby stimuli that share no physical properties come to be functionally similar (i.e., form an equivalence class). Individuals diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder (AD) display high rates of atypical language functioning and dysfunctional communication. Such abnormal development could be the result of differences in a fundamental learning process such as stimulus equivalence. In the current study, ten adolescents diagnosed with AD were compared to ten typically developing adolescents on a task of equivalence class formation. Results suggest that when conditional discriminations are taught to mastery, there are no significant differences between adolescents with AD and typically developing adolescents in the emergence of untrained relations. The conceptual impact of these results and approaches to future research are discussed.

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