Are symmetric and generalized matching-to-sample skills associated with picture preference assessments for people with developmental disabilities?
Thorne, Leslie Maxine Elizabeth
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When assessing preferences of individuals with developmental disabilities, choices can be described vocally or presented using objects or pictures in preference assessments. For individuals who are unable to perform auditory-visual discriminations and visual identity matching, objects instead of pictures or vocalizations need to be used for preference assessments to be effective. Considering the practical advantages of using pictures over objects, recent research has begun to focus on identifying and teaching skills needed for picture preference assessments. Although object-to-picture, picture-to-object, and generalized matching have been implicated as possible skills needed for picture preference assessments, further systematic studies are needed. The present study examined the relation between preference assessments (object vs. picture groups) and 5 discrimination skills. Based on direct paired-stimulus preference assessments completed at the beginning of the study, participants who could indicate their preferences with objects, but not with picture or vocal presentation, were assigned to the Object Group (n = 11); and participants who could indicate their preferences with both objects and pictures, but not vocal presentation, were assigned to the Picture Group (n = 9). The 5 discrimination tasks included: (a) object-picture matching and (b) its symmetry, picture-object matching; (c) generalized object-picture matching and (d) its symmetry, generalized picture-object matching; and (e) generalized identity picture-picture matching. All task stimuli were parts from everyday objects. Independent sample t-tests with Bonferroni correction showed that the percentages of correct responses were significantly higher in the Picture Group than in the Object Group on 4 of the 5 tasks (p < .01). Individual data showed that 8 of the 9 Picture Group participants met the pass criterion (80% or higher correct responses) on at least 1 discrimination task, with 6 participants passing 2 or more tasks. In contrast, only 1 of the 11 Object Group participants met the pass criterion on 1 discrimination task. The findings suggest that the effectiveness of picture preference assessments is not dependent on one specific discrimination, but possibly the ability to perform generalized matching.