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Keywords:

  • stimulus control assessment;
  • functional analysis;
  • stimulus generalization;
  • assessment methodology

When a learner is taught a new response, the stimuli that influence its display are often unknown. The presence or absence of these stimuli alters the probability of occurrence of the response. By identifying the stimuli influencing the probability of newly acquired responses, interventionists may program for their generalization more effectively and efficiently. This investigation describes the application of an operant methodology to assess functional relationships between responses and specific stimulus variables. Four young adults with moderate mental retardation were taught to include “please” as part of requests they made in school. Four environmental stimuli, present during training, were assessed for the controlling properties they acquired. Each of the four was assessed prior to and after training by presenting it in isolation (i.e., the other three were varied). If the presence of a single stimulus associated with training did not occasion “please,” then pairs of stimuli were probed. The results revealed that single-stimulus probing occasioned responding by only 1 learner; paired-stimulus probing set the occasion for including “please” by 2 others. Control of the 4th learner's responding was lost before training was introduced, because he began including “please” in his requests during baseline. The implications of these results are discussed in terms of analyzing stimulus control and promoting stimulus generalization.