• conditional discrimination;
  • matching to sample;
  • differential sample responses;
  • naming;
  • symmetry;
  • learning set;
  • button press;
  • mentally retarded adults

The development of generalized conditional discrimination skills was examined in adults with retardation. Two subjects with histories of failure to acquire arbitrary matching under trial-and-error procedures were successful under procedures that trained one or more prerequisite skills. The successive discrimination between the sample stimuli was established by training the subjects to name the stimuli. The simultaneous discrimination between the comparison stimuli was established using either (a) standard simple discrimination training with reversals or (b) a procedure in which each of the two sample-comparison relations in the conditional discrimination was presented in blocks of trials, with the size of the blocks decreasing gradually until sample presentation was randomized. The amount of prerequisite training required varied across subjects and across successive conditional discriminations. After acquiring either two or three conditional discriminations with component training, both subjects learned new conditional discriminations under trial-and-error procedures. In general, each successive conditional discrimination was acquired more rapidly. Tests showed that conditional responding had become a generalized skill. Symmetry was shown for almost all trained relations. Symmetry trial samples were ultimately named the same as the stimuli to which they were related in training.