Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi

Second Advisor

Dr. R. Wayne Fuqua

Third Advisor

Dr. Jack Michael

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Krumhus-Goodman


In the "feature-value effect" faster acquisition occurs when a distinguishing feature is placed on the correct stimulus (S+) during discrimination training than when the distinguishing feature is placed on the incorrect stimulus (S-). The former is a "feature positive" discrimination task, whereas the latter is a "feature negative" discrimination task. The feature-value effect only occurs when the discrimination involves stimuli that are identical except for one distinguishing feature. The effect has been obtained in a number of nonhuman species as well as in children and adult humans. Experiments 1 and 2 failed to replicate the findings of previous experiments with young children using subjects, stimuli and procedures similar to those used in previous experiments: Most of the feature negative children did not make errors. Experiment 3 partially replicated Bitgood, Segrave and Jenkins' (1976) finding that providing children with "yes"/blank feedback (rather than "yes"/"no" feedback) greatly increased errors during training. (In the "yes"/blank procedure the only scheduled consequence after errors was the removal of the stimuli.) A different preschool was used as the research site in Experiment 4 in an effort to determine whether the site used in Experiment 1 was somehow related to the failure to replicate the results of previous research. Even though more subjects performed poorly in Experiment 4 than in Experiment 1, performance was not uniformly poor across all subjects exposed to the feature negative task as in Bitgood et al.'s (1976) study. Differences related to the use of automated vs. nonautomated equipment may account for the different results obtained in Experiments 1 through 4 and previous research.

Experiment 5 failed to obtain the feature-value effect in children using stimuli and procedures similar to those used in previous experiments conducted with college students. College students served as subjects in Experiment 6 using stimuli and procedures similar to those used with college students by other researchers and a feature-value effect was obtained. It may be that the feature-value effect can only be obtained in children using stimuli of moderate difficulty for the particular subjects studied. It is also possible that the feature-value effect is not as robust a phenomenon as previous research suggests.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons