Conditional discrimination in young children: The roles of associative and relational processing
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Two experiments examined conditional discrimination in 4- to 6-year-olds. Children learned to choose one of two objects (e.g., circle) when the background was, say, red and to choose the other object (e.g., triangle) when the background was, say, blue. Awareness was assessed and interpreted as a marker of relational processing. In Experiment 1, most 4- and 5-year-olds did not reach the learning criterion. Children in Experiment 2 solved simpler reversal learning problems before the conditional discrimination problems. Most 4- to 6-year-olds reached criterion, but they did not necessarily demonstrate awareness, suggesting that reversal learning and conditional discrimination can be acquired through associative or relational processing. Relational processing increased with age and was used more on simpler problems. Fluid intelligence predicted Problem 2 performance in children who used relational (not associative) processing on Problem 1. Prior experience with simpler problems and awareness of relational structure are influential in children's conditional discrimination.
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology