For decades, behavioral scientists from many intellectual traditions have relied on discrete-trial methodologies to investigate aspects of cognition and behavior of individuals with limited language. These methodologies have led to major advances in many areas, among them clarification of behavioral capacities of various nonverbal populations and applications to clinical challenges such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As yet, however, there has been little consideration of an important issue - whether such methodologies are optimal for their intended purposes. Might procedures with different structural characteristics prove comparably or more efficacious and/or prove more efficient? The proposed exploratory developmental project addresses this fundamental question. The project builds upon a recently articulated theory of contingency learning and decades-long pursuit of effective, efficient methodology for studying individuals with limited language. We will compare widely-used discrete-trial methods with procedural variants that (a) retain many of their desirable features while (b) eliminating other features that may reduce overall efficacy or efficiency. Briefly, we ask whether there are desirable alternatives to repetitive, trial-by-trial procedure structures employed in virtually all discrete-trial procedures. Alternatives proposed in this application alter the basic concept of a """"""""trial,"""""""" expanding it to include structurally more complex sequences of behavior. Should our hypotheses prove correct, the project could have substantial impact on laboratory practices and clinical applications in areas such as behavior therapy, augmentative/alternative communication, preacademic readiness training, and the neuroscience of behavior. ? ? ?
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