Second-order discrimination learning in humans: effect of physical arrangements with comparison stimuli

Conditional discrimination learning in animals has been the source of research for many decades. However, primary factors involving human discrimination learning remain obscure. It is the goal of the current research to investigate the effect physical properties of comparison stimuli have on the learning process in humans. This study extends to humans a line of research that utilized pigeons in second-order discrimination training, conducted on the California State University, Stanislaus campus. Six undergraduate students were recruited to test the effects of second-order comparison arrangements under two conditions. The integrated (superimposed) and partitioned (non-superimposed) conditions were presented after first-order training with 3 elements (color, shape, and pattern). As in the prior research, a symbolicmatch- to-sample methodology is used to train, and test, participants in first and second-order conditional discriminations. Results from second-order trials are inconclusive, but demonstrate a pattern of responding which is affected by the comparison stimuli conditions. All participants demonstrated generalization of second-order conditional discrimination from first-order training. Results of firstorder training confirmed the results of animal research, where significantly more trials were required to attain mastery with pattern comparisons.