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"The Smudge Factor" -- Adventures in Stimulus Control


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As with many types of instructional materials, verbal behavior can come under control of irrelevant stimuli on SAFMEDS. SAFMEDS denote a "seesay" learning channel. You see the front, and say what goes on the back (without looking). We might make the following assumption: Given the verbal stimulus on the front, that it controls the response made. That may pan out as an incorrect assumption. An assumption basically reduces to "fiction." When you make an assumption, you suppose something is true without proof. Well, in instructional design, assumptions can deceive you. You may think that an intended verbal stimulus prompts the response, when in fact some other stimulus actually does. With SAFMEDS, the proverbial example of this can be called "the smudge factor."

Consider the following partial set of SAFMEDS cards:


The fourth card from the left has a smudge on its top right corner. It may become the case, when a learner works through a set of SAFMEDS rapidly, that the smudge itself can control the response. The learning channel would become "see smudge, say 'six'." If that becomes so, then it could mean the learner does not learn the intended relation: "see '3 X 2 = ?', say 'six'."


Testing for Stimulus Control


For an initial way to test whether the irrelevant stimulus controls responding, blank out the intended learning stimulus. That is, on the example card, leave the smudge, but blank out the problem:


If the learner can still correctly answer the card with the intended verbal stimulus blanked out, this may serve as evidence of inappropriate stimulus control.

Blanking out, or blacking out, text on instructional frames has been an instructional design technique that goes back to the old Programmed Instruction days. Doran & Holland (1971) describe this "blackout ratio" technique in detail.

For a second way to test whether the irrelevant stimulus controls responding, remove the smudge. This probably requires replacing the card. The card would then have the irrelevant stimulus removed:


If the learner now cannot correctly answer the card without its irrelevant stimulus, this will serve as additional evidence of inappropriate stimulus control.

If the learner can respond correctly with the irrelevant stimulus AND cannot respond correctly without the irrelevant stimulus, then the evedince for inappropriate stimulus control would seem pretty strong.

There are many other stimulus control issues with SAFMEDS, where irrelevant stimuli can come to control a response. These shall be described as this page grows.


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Direct URL: http://standardcelerationcharttopics.pbwiki.com/SAFMEDS+Issues

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Webmaster: John W. Eshleman, Ed.D.

Copyright 2000 by John W. Eshleman, Ed.D. (Just the form the information is presented in on this page)

Revised -- April 6, 2000.



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