For half a century, behavior analysts have designed experiments to explain the emergence of untrained relations. Naming, or symbolic reference more broadly, is seen as critical or central to the emergence of derived stimulus relations (Sidman, 1994; Horne & Lowe, 1996; Barnes-Holmes & Barnes-Holmes, 2002). First defined by Horne and Lowe (1996) as a bidirectional behavioral relation that combines the speaker and listener within the individual, naming appears to be the foundation for the exponential language development in young children (Olaff & Holth, 2020). The emergence of untrained relations has long been a fundamental problem in behavior analysis, and naming is one such relation that researchers have studied extensively.
Previous studies on naming presented the object and its name together, and thus appealing to the argument that derived bi-directional relations are involved in naming may not be necessary. Specifically, the stimuli could come to be related by directly trained bi-directional relations (i.e., without derivation). A pilot study with eight toddlers has been conducted in which the object was hidden from view when it was named by the researcher. Initially, none of the participants exhibited correct naming responses. Four participants received multiple exemplar training (MET), which led to improvements in listener naming for all.
Objectives of the research:
The aim of the proposed study is to (a) replicate the findings of the pilot study for listener naming, and (b) test the emergence of speaker naming with the non-simultaneous presentation technique and evaluate the effectiveness of MET with and without echoic training if deficits are observed.
Overall, the study aims to discern the precise behavioral processes involved in (symbolic) naming.
Methods to be used:
Six typically developing toddlers between 15-24 months of age will participate in the study.
The main dependent variable used during the testing and training phases will be the percent of correct responses during listener trials and speaker trials.
A multiple baseline design across participants will be used to evaluate treatment effects.
The study will employ a single subject design, specifically, a multiple baseline design across participants to test the effectiveness of the training procedures used. Visual analysis of graphed data will be used to compare each child’s responses during the testing phase (baseline) to the same behavior during and after the training/intervention phase.
Skills required of applicant:
The applicant should hold or expect to achieve an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) or First Class Honours Degree in Psychology or a cognate field. The applicant should also have strong research methods skills, a willingness and ability to work with young children, and an interest in the experimental/applied analysis of behaviour and/or developmental psychology.
AccessNI clearance required
Please note, the successful candidate will be required to obtain AccessNI clearance prior to registration due to the nature of the project.
- To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
Funding and eligibility
The Doctoral College at Ulster University
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