SALIENCE OF FACIAL EXPRESSION AND SEX CUES IN A REVERSAL SHIFT TASK
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Concept shift behavior was compared with respect to social and nonsocial cues in 4-5 year old children, and possible preferences for specific social cues were studied. Drawing from the notion that social stimuli may be more salient in discrimination learning than traditional stimuli, it was hypothesized that: (1) children would be able to shift sets on a reversal task more quickly than children performing a nonreversal task, (2) differential effects would be seen depending on whether the stimuli are drawn from social or nonsocial contexts, (3) differences in performance on the initial task would reflect differences in stimulus salience and, (4) preferences for specific social cues would be evident.;Eighty children were assigned to cue dimension conditions and compared after completing two task phases. Cue dimensions were variously paired in photos of adults' faces. Initially, 40 children were reinforced on the basis of facial expression cues, 20 on size cues and the remaining 20 on sex cues. In the shift phase, 40 children were assigned to a reversal condition and reinforced for an alternative response within their initial cue dimension. The remaining 40 (nonreversal) were shifted to the cue dimension that had not been reinforced. Data for 54 other children who were unable to attain criterion during either phase were retained for subsequent discussion.;With respect to Hypotheses 1 through 3, an analysis of variance revealed the consistency with which concept shift performance occurs for social as well as for nonsocial cues, with reversal being superior to nonreversal shift. Advantage of the reversal shift held irrespective of specific stimulus conditions. While there were no significant differences in initial discrimination learning for stimulus conditions, expression groups were generally best-performing. Significant preferences for positive facial expressions were shown in early trials despite feedback to the contrary. Thus, Hypotheses 1 and 4 were confirmed by the results of the study, while Hypotheses 2 and 3 were not confirmed.;From the findings, a miniature hierarchy of social cues was proposed for inclusion within a developmental framework. Concept shift performance with social stimuli was related to present day theories of discrimination learning.