Amy McCarty

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Jack L. Michael

Second Advisor

Dr. Alyce M. Dickinson

Third Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


Selection-based and topography-based learning systems are two systems that can be used to teach verbal behavior. With a selection-based system, the same topography is used for all verbal behavior. With a topography-based system, each behavior involves a different topography. Research about how these different systems influence learning is in a very early stage. Few studies have compared the effectiveness of one type of system to the other, and results are inconclusive.

Previous studies measured ease of acquisition in terms of trials to an accuracy criterion as the dependent variable. In the present study, with normal functioning adults as subjects, a fluency criterion (24 consecutive correct responses with individual net latencies not exceeding 1-sec) was imposed. The main dependent variable was trials to these criteria. Other dependent variables included separate measures of speed and accuracy, mean net latency for the first 24 consecutive correct trials, the fastest 24 consecutive trials, and the most consecutive correct trials meeting fluency criteria. Previous studies used between-group designs. In this study, a repeated acquisition procedure enabled the use of a within-group design for comparing the two types of verbal behavior in terms of fluency.

Results suggest that greater fluency may be attained with topography-based repertoires, such as signing or speaking, than with selection-based repertoires, such as pointing systems. The repeated acquisition procedure is established as a suitable means for comparing selection-based and topography-based systems.

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