Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Jack L. Michael

Second Advisor

Dr. Wayne Fuqua

Third Advisor

Dr. Michele Burnette

Fourth Advisor

Dr. David Sluyter


Michael (1985) identified two types of verbal behavior, topography-based (i.e., speaking or using sign language) and selection-based (i.e., symbol board). Sundberg & Sundberg (1990) and Wraikat (1991) compared these systems in terms of the ease of learning object naming (tact) and giving the correct sign or pointing to the correct symbol on hearing the object name (intraverbal). Sundberg & Sundberg (1990) also compared them for the spontaneous development of a new relation, identifying the object when hearing its name (stimulus class formation or equivalence). The results of both studies favored the topography-based system, but in each case some subjects were too low functioning to learn either system and some learned both too easily to permit a useful comparison. The current study replicated the two previous ones by teaching the same two verbal relations and testing for the emergence of the same new relation, but obtained more useful comparisons by adjusting the task to the subject's level of function during the experiment. This was accomplished by varying the number of object relations being learned, and by interspersing already learned tasks with the training of new tasks. Useful comparisons were obtained from all seven subjects. As with the earlier studies, topography-based verbal behavior was easier to learn and led to more new stimulus-class relations than selection-based verbal behavior. These data confirm the relevant theoretical analysis, and have practical implications for a change in current language training practices.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons