Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Three children, aged eight to eleven years, were taught a series of conditional discriminations using two classes of 26 abstract visual stimuli. The conditional relations were ordered such that the correct comparison stimuli of one relation served as the sample stimuli for the next relation. This allowed for the formation of a series of derived relations (both transitive and equivalence) that differed in terms of the number of intervening nodes. At regular intervals, the subjects' performances on the different transitive relations were tested using unreinforced probe trials.

All three subjects made virtually no errors on transitive relations containing up to 11 intervening nodes. Two of the three subjects began to make errors on transitive relations containing 12 intervening nodes, and their performance fell to approximately chance levels on successive transitive relations. One subject showed no deterioration in performance over all transitive relations tested with up to 24 intervening nodes. This subject also demonstrated almost errorless performance on equivalence relations of up to 24 nodes. These data confirm findings of Fields, Adams, Verhave and Newman (1990) that the formation of transitive and equivalence relations is inversely related to the number of intervening nodal stimuli and extends these findings to non-verbal abstract visual stimuli. The present results also suggest that transitive and equivalence relations using abstract visual stimuli are more easily learned than relations formed using visually presented nonsense syllables, and that, in the case of one subject, mediating verbal behavior may have improved performance on transitive and equivalence relations.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access