Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Richard W. Malott

Second Advisor

Dr. Jack Michael


Although instructions tend to generate rapid and near errorless responding during acquisition, this efficiency in performance is not necessarily maintained in reacquisition. The present study addressed this issue of performance maintenance by utilizing procedures designed to strengthen the control function of instruction stimuli.

Five 6 to 10 year-old children, two females and three males, were trained in the repeated acquisition of a behavioral chain using monetary reinforcement. The operanda for the five-component behavioral chain consisted of fifteen plastic discs displayed on an intelligence pad. For each session the subjects’ task was to leam or relearn a new sequential order by picking up the "correct" disc in each of the five groups of three discs. The study consisted of six blocks of two paired sessions. Each block was comprised of an acquisition session and a reacquisition session on Day I; an instructed acquisition session and an instructed reacquisition session on Day II. This repeated acquisition and reacquisition provided a steady state from session to session against which the effects of experimental manipulations were evaluated.

Three experiments were conducted. Experiment I evaluated the effects of instructional stimuli which involved the conspicuous displacement of the correct discs during instructed acquisition only. When instruction was provided, subjects learned without errors ; but removal of instruction resulted in reacquisition errors similar to those of non-instructed acquisition sessions. Experiment II investigated the effects of a five-step stimulus-fading procedure during instructed acquisition to increase stimulus control of responding to the correct disc sequence. Performance during instructed reacquisition was at best only slightly better than the instructed reacquisition of Experiment I. Experiment III assessed the role of rule-stating during instructed acquisition. Again there were no clear improvements over the instructed reacquisition of Experiment II. Taken together these findings do not show a clear and systematic improvement from acquisition to reacquisition conditions when stimulus fading and rule-stating were superimposed on instruction.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access