Evaluating the Effects of Similar and Distinct Discriminative Stimuli During Auditory Conditional Discrimination Training With Children With Autism

  • Angelica A. AguirreEmail author
  • Linda A. LeBlanc
  • Andrea Reavis
  • Alice M. Shillingsburg
  • Caitlin H. Delfs
  • Catherine A. Miltenberger
  • Kaneen B. Symer


Children with autism are often taught auditory conditional discriminations in the form of personal information questions that might prove useful in conversation (e.g., “What is your favorite food?” “Pizza” and “What is your favorite color?” “Purple”). In these questions, the auditory stimuli presented as part of the compound discriminative stimulus (i.e., what, favorite, color/food) do not always simultaneously control responding. If all components of the auditory stimulus do not control responding, a child may master 1 target but have trouble acquiring subsequent targets that have a component of a previously learned auditory stimulus because the previously learned response is emitted. One way to avoid this problem is to teach many targets that have no overlapping component stimuli before introducing targets that include a previously learned component. Another way to avoid the problem is to systematically introduce overlapping stimulus components simultaneously to facilitate control by all relevant components. Three children with autism were taught auditory conditional discriminations. An adapted alternating-treatments design was used to compare the use of training sets with programmed overlap of component auditory stimuli to training sets with no overlap of stimulus components. The effects of these 2 arrangements were evaluated on trials to criterion and percentage accuracy during acquisition. All participants reached mastery faster with at least 1 target set in the nonoverlap condition compared to the overlapping condition; 2 out of the 3 participants met the mastery criteria for both overlapping and nonoverlapping targets at a similar rate by the 3rd training set.


Auditory conditional discrimination Intraverbal Personal questions Stimulus control 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest related to this project.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trumpet Behavioral HealthDublinUSA
  2. 2.Marcus Autism CenterAtlantaUSA

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