Title: Left-right concept acquisition
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098353/00001
 Material Information
Title: Left-right concept acquisition
Physical Description: viii, 72 leaves. : illus. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Schulman, Howard Mark, 1948-
Publication Date: 1974
Copyright Date: 1974
Subject: Discrimination learning   ( lcsh )
Transfer of training   ( lcsh )
Paired association learning   ( lcsh )
Psychology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Psychology -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 67-70.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00098353
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000580883
oclc - 14094083
notis - ADA8988


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I wish to express my deep appreciation to Dr.

Paul Satz, Chairman of my Supervisory Committee, for

his invaluable advice and guidance through all phases

of this study. I also wish to thank Dr. Hugh C. Davis,

Dr. William Wolking, Dr. Anastasia Wells, and Dr. Bert

Swanson for their helpful suggestions as members of my


Many thanks are due to Ann Altman who assisted in

gathering the data and to Dr. Karen Yuen who assisted

with the statistical analysis of the data, and to the

children who were patient (and sometimes impatient)

participants in the study.

Lastly I wish to acknowledge some of the people

whose friendship and emotional support and encouragement

helped me persevere Mel, Les and Susan, Stasie, Carol

H., Barry and Caryl, Howard, Henry and Lois, Bob, Jeff

and Sandy, Ruth and Milton, Mike and Carol B., Dave and

Sharon, Jacques and Sue, Saul and Marlene, and Peter and

Sylvia. As a good Jewish son I also want to add a word

of thanks to my Mother and Grandmother.



LIST OF TABLES............. .............................v

LIST OF FIGURES......................................vi


CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION................................ 1
Theories of the Development of L-R................4
Normative Studies of L-R SELF.............. .... 8
Correlates of L-R Conceptualization................ 13
Sex and L-R Discrimination.....................13
I.Q. and L-R Discrimination...... ...............14
Handedness and L-R Discrimination..............15
Reading Problems and L-R Discrimination........16


CHAPTER III. METHOD...................................27
Subjects... ..... .... ........... ....... ....... 27
Procedure....... ............. ................ 28
Tests Administered..................... ....28
Training--Procedures and Instructions..........31
Methodological Issues............................37
Subjects................ ......... ......... ..... 37
Tests Administered.............................37
Training Task............. ................... 39
Statistical Treatment................................40

CHAPTER IV. RESULTS...................................42
Phenomenological Inquiry.... ...........................48
Supplementary Analyses............................52

CHAPTER V. DISCUSSION. ..................................54


APPENDIX A ... .. ........ ......... ..... ........ ....... 64

APPENDIX B..........................................65

NOTES......... ...... .... ...... ..................... .....66

REFERENCES.......... .............................. ... 67

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH................................... 71







Studies of L-R Discrimination.................11

Phases of the L-R Training Task..................34

Subject Errors on Training Task by

Subject Errors on Training Task by Phase.....49

Subject Errors at SES 4 and 5 on
Phase 5 and 6................... ............ 50


Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

Figure 4.

Figure 5.

Figure 6.

BRS-Foringer Human Test Console (HTC-603)
with Accessories .........................30

The S Seated in Front of the Human Test
Console ................................... 32

Timing Diagram for Training Trials
During Phase 1 ...........................35

Subjects' Performance on L-R SELF--
Correct Responses........................43

Subjects' Performance on Arrow's Test--
Correct Responses.........................44

Subjects' Performance on L-R OTHER--
Correct Responses.........................46

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in
Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Howard Mark Schulman

June, 1974

Chairman: Paul Satz
Major Department: Psychology

The present study attempted to develop a methodology

for teaching children an accelerated concept of left-right

discrimination (L-R) which shows transference to new

stimulus situations. Five boys between ages 3-11 to 4-7

were pretested and found to be unable to differentiate

their own lateralized body parts beyond a chance level.

Each S was given five consecutive days of training on a L-R

task. The task involved distinguishing the left and right

panels of a test console. Multi-sensory prompts were

gradually faded out as the child progressed in the training.

Before and after each training session, three transference

tasks were administered to the Ss. As a group, the five Ss

showed no statistically significant learning of the

training task nor any significant transference. Only two

of the Ss appeared to have mastered the L-R training. One


of these two was able to further demonstrate conservation

of the concept on the transference tasks. Among the

shortcomings of the methodology was the inability to

generate stimulus control in lateral cues. Several modi-

fications and improvements were explored, which would

foster both concept acquisition and conservation.



The developmental psychology literature shows a long

history of interest in the study of the development of con-

cepts of right and left. Both clinicians and theoreticians

have been interested in the formation and demonstration of

this discriminative ability.

Right-left discrimination . /was7 first
observed in the form of acquired behavioral deficits
in patients with cerebral disease. However, disturb-
ances in right-left discrimination . can also occur
as developmental deficits in mental detectives, in
children with reading disability, and in brain damaged
children as well as in adults. There can be little
doubt that such developmental deficit has a far-reaching
clinical and educational significance. (Benton, 1959,
p. xiii)

Besides its usefulness in testing for various deficits

and defects (Benton, 1968), left-right discrimination /Z-R7

is a skill which all normal children acquire (to varying

degrees) in the process of growing and developing. There

are indications that the discrimination of L-R is one of

several essential skills which form the basis for the acqui-

sition of more complex sensorimotor, perceptual, and intel-

lectual skills. As Boone (1965) observes: "Perhaps we need

to test routinely the left-right discrimination abilities

of school children and teach those with left-right discrimi-

nation difficulties with a program of special instruction to

distinguish 'left' from 'right'. The learning of reading,

writing, arithmetic and music may be hampered for the

youngster with left-right discrimination difficulties."

(p. 133)

If L-R is as important to future learning as Benton and

Boone imply, then the question of how the basic concept is

acquired, increases in significance.

.Bijou (1964) describes two alternative theories of

concept attainment. These two theories might be called the

maturationall" and the "learning theory" (or "behavioral")


The maturational approach, best exemplified by Piaget

and his followers, holds that concept learning follows

invariant stage sequences (Wohlwill, 1963). Stages may be

reached either via innate processes alone or, as many would

stress, by a combination of the innate and the experiential

(Sigel, 1964). The emphasis is on systematic development

growing out of earlier foundations and developing in a fixed

order tied to total maturation.

The behaviorists deny the necessity for invariant stage

development. So long as the child is physically able to

make the appropriate responses, it should be sufficient to

arrange the environment to strengthen these responses

(Bijou, 1964). The behaviorists imply that, while the ap-

parent developmental "stages" may be a sufficient condition

to attain certain concepts, the necessary minimum response

repertoire may be available to the child much earlier, and

thus concepts can be taught before they "develop."

The maturational versus learning controversy is an old

one in psychology. The present study does not propose to

resolve this controversy but to explore limited aspects of

one developmental concept (L-R acquisition) which has gener-

ated much interest by clinicians, theoreticians and develop-

mental psychologists in general. The following study has

been designed to shed some light on the problem of left-right

development by exploring two aspects of L-R concept training:

(1) the applications of behavioral technology to the training

of L-R to children who fall below the usual age for the at-

tainment of this concept; (2) the transfer of this training

to a different set of stimulus conditions. Before moving on

to the immediate precedents for this study, one must under-

stand something of the theory and history of the question of

L-R concept acquisition and its place in the area of child


Theories of the Development of L-R

Piaget (1928) describes three stages in the child's

development of the L-R concept: (1) personal viewpoint,

(2) viewpoint of others, (3) viewpoint of objects or of the

relational judgement in general.

Most later theorists have accepted this three stage

division despite minor differences over the nature of L-R

development or the precise age at which each stage is

attained (Elkind, 1961; Laurendeau & Pinard, 1970). Most

test batteries reflect this three-part division (Piaget,

1924; Benton, 1959; Elkind, 1961; Laurendeau & Pinard, 1970).

In more formal, structural terms, these stages have been

described as: (1) pure egocentrism; (2) socialization or

reciprocity of viewpoints; (3) complete objectification and

reciprocity, (Laurendeau & Pinard, 1970).

Laurendeau and Pinard (1970) go into detailed descrip-

tions of these stages. They begin with Stage 0 (Total

Incomprehension) and break Stage 1 (egocentric) down into

two substages (see "Development of the Problem" chapter)

based on the degree of relativity and generalizability of

the child's concept of L-R.

"Up" and "down"; "in front of." and "behind"; having

fixed reference points (Boone & Prescott, 1968) are acquired

at younger ages than the more abstract and relative distinc-

tion between left and right (Benton, 1959),

Benton (1968) approaches the concept of left and right

somewhat differently than other theorists. He distinguishes

two components to the complete concept of L-R: a somato-

sensory component (the L-R gradient of the 'body schema'),

and a linguistic-symbolic component (successfully identifying

and labeling the directions of right and left). The somato-

sensory component is best measured by testing a child's

knowledge of the left and right sides of his own body (L-R

SELF)--with consistent correct responses, or conversely,

systematic reversal, indicating a basic differentiation of

two spatial planes. The symbolic component at its simplest

level, refers to consistently attaching the correct verbal

label (left or right) to the already distinguished lateral

body part. A complete symbolic grasp of L-R is demonstrated

by a person's flexibility in applying L-R concepts (e.g.

identifying L-R of another person, of objects, etc.).

Benton hypothesized that the linguistic-symbolic component

develops later than the somatosensory component.

Children and mental detectives who show systematic
reversal in the identification of their lateral body

parts and who fail to transpose their orientation in
identifying the lateral body parts of the confronting
examiner have not mastered the symbolic or conceptual
component in right-left discrimination, despite a
sufficiently differentiated right-left gradient.
Conversely the normal adult who experiences difficulty
in making the immediate discrimination and who relies
on extraneous or stronger cues to accomplish it would
seem to have an insufficiently differentiated right-
left gradient, but at the same time complete appre-
ciation of the conceptual aspect of the discrimination.
(Benton, 1968,)

The conceptual approach of Laurendeau and Pinard (1970)

takes into account systematic concept formation using a

Piagetan model. The focus of this study will be on the

first stage of L-R development, as described by Laurendeau

and Pinard.

The main characteristic of Stage 1 children is the
understanding that the terms 'left' and 'right' are
names or labels which do not relate to objects in a
purely arbitrary and unstable fashion, but instead
constitute spatial localization factors with a stable
and regular reference. The child discovers, in effect,
that these two terms refer to body parts which are
placed on the same side, or to external objects which
are considered as to the left or to the right depending
on whether they are placed to the left or the right of
the salient reference point which is the body itself.
In his responses to the questions, then, he introduces
a consistency which reflects this law of regularity,
and the consistency of the responses often precedes
even the knowledge of what left and right really are.
It is clear that this principle of stability or regu-
larity already reflects the child's grasp of a rela-
tionship of opposition between left and right . .
Everything located on one side of him will be judged
as to the left, for example, and everything on the
other side will be considered to the right. Despite
this understanding of the opposition relations

expressed by these terms and also despite this constant
coordination of objects with his own perspective, left
and right remain essentially absolute terms that
describe objects located in two contiguous and nonover-
lapping spaces. Because the borders defining these
spaces are determined with reference to a viewpoint
which is unaware of itself, the child perceives neither
their extreme mobility nor their continual fluctuation.
(Laurendeau & Pinard, 1970;)

According to Laurendeau and Pinard's analysis, system-

atic reversals in young children show a higher level of

concept formation than do mere random errors, in picking

out body parts of a person standing opposite the subject

(L-R OTHER). Such systematic reversal implies the child's

systematic differentiation of left and right, and a projec-

tion of this spatial schema onto all objects in an egocentric

manner (i.e. the child himself as the reference point). The

later stages of L-R development recognize the dependence of

the concepts of left and right on the person or object being

referred to and not simply to the child's own orientation.

The ability to correctly differentiate L-R OTHER does not

generally develop until ages eight to 10 (Laurendeau &

Pinard, 1970), while correct differentiation of L-R SELF

can generally be seen at ages five to six (see following

section). However, systematic reversals on a L-R OTHER task

are often seen in children with fully developed Stage 1 L-R

concepts--in fact such "errors" are to be expected among

young children.

Normative Studies of L-R SELF

The various studies of L-R acquisition have been

outlined in Table 1. The ages included identify the age of

acquisition of a Stage 1 L-R SELF concept. The criteria

for having mastered the concept varies somewhat, with most

studies adopting the "75% Criterion"--that is, the age at

which 75% of the Ss at that age level passed all of the

items. This standard was first applied by Binet and Simon

(1908, see Benton, 1959; Laurendeau & Pinard, 1970). They

included a brief test of L-R in their first I.Q. scale.

-Terman (1916, see Benton, 1959; Laurendeau & Pinard,

1970) included the three item L-R SELF test of Binet in his

American adaptation of the Binet I.Q. scales, the Stanford-

Binet. Terman however added three additional items to be

administered should the child make an error on one of the

first three (criterion was three of three, or five of six

correct). This subtest was dropped from the 1937 revision

of the Stanford-Binet for obscure reasons.

Piaget (1924--same as Piaget, 1928; also see Laurendeau

and Pinard, 1970) introduced a 20 item test which measured

all three stages of L-R development. Four of the 20 items

measured L-R SELF.

Kladnitskaya (in Shemyakin, 1959) studied a group of

seven year olds in a Russian physical culture class and

found that when they were asked to raise their left or

right hands, many of them made errors. About 30% turned

the wrong way when asked to turn to the left or right.

Swanson & Benton (1955; also see Benton, 1959) used a

20 item test battery including: six L-R SELF items; four

items with a crossed command (e.g. touch your right ear with

your left hand); four items measuring L-R of another person;

and six items performed with the S's eyes closed (both

crossed and uncrossed commands). Crossed commands develop

later (apparently between six and nine) than simple identi-

fication of single lateral body parts. (Benton, 1968) L-R

skills begin to be manifested at about age five. No sig-

nificant differences were found between items administered

with the S's eyes closed or open (Most Ss followed this

pattern. However, Benton fT9687 found that some brain

damaged patients and a few normal Ss showed patterns of

differential responding on this variable.). Finally, the

Benton studies looked at a sample of 12 children from an

orphanage with I.Q. scores comparable to the larger sample

and found that they did as well as other children their age.

In their 1963 study, Belmont and Birch concluded that

L-R SELF is clearly stabilized at age seven. However by

varying the number of test items, they found that they

could "lower" the age of acquisition to five years. This

issue of test reliability has all too often been overlooked

in studies of L-R. A glance at Table 1 will quickly show

that most studies used six or less L-R SELF items. The

maximum number that Belmont and Birch used was seven items.

The present study sought to increase the reliability of the

criterion measure by increasing the number of test items.

Boone and Prescott (1968) introduced the Left-Right

Discrimination Test (LRDT) which requires the child to

identify left and right using large cards with colored

circles printed on them (and incidently employing 17 L-R

items as well as 23 control items). The test however was

not a measure of "pure" L-R concepts, calling for identi-

fication of "higher left", "middle right", "lowest right",

etc. Children below age five could not establish a basal

score on this test. Performance on the LRDT improved

linearly between ages five and ten.

Although Laurendeau and Pinard (1970) in their exten-

sive study of 400 Montreal schoolchildren, placed the age

of acquisition of L-R SELF at age seven (using the 75%


Studies of L-R Discrimination


Binet & Simon (1908)1

Binet & Simon (1911)2

Bobertag (1911)3

Terman (1916)4

Piaget (1924)5



Benton (1955)

Sample Population

# L-R
Self Items

Lower class French

N=240; urban, middle-class
ages 4-12


(30% of 7 year olds made

N=110; Mental detectives
M.A. 6-9

3 or 6


Age of L-R

Age of L-R

6 years(a)

7 years(a)

7 years(a)

6 years(a)

5 years(a)

4 years

10 (in-
cludes 4
crossed com-
mand items)

M.A. 6 years

Table 1 continued.


Swanson & Benton (1955)
Benton (1959)

Galifret-Granjon (1960)8

Elkind (1961)

Belmont & Birch (1963)

Boone & Prescott (1968)

Laurendeau & Pinard

Sample Population

N=158; middle-class;
average I.Q.; ages 6-9

N=ca. 240; ages 6-14

N=210; ages 5-11

N=148; suburban;
average I.Q.
ages 5-3 to 12-5

N=600; ages 5-10

N=400; Montreal

# L-R Age of L-R
Self Items Discrimination

10 (in- 5 years (esti-
cludes 4 mated); 6
crossed com- years (found
mand items) chance)

4 6 years(a)

4 5 years(a)

7----------7 years(a)

4----------5 years(a)

17 (LRDT) 5 & up

6 .7 years(a)

(a) uses "75% Criterion".

criterion), 24 of 50 Ss at age five got 100% of the L-R

SELF items correct.

In general then, the normative studies indicate that

the vast majority of children demonstrate complete mastery

of Stage 1 L-R concepts (L-R SELF) between the ages of five

and seven.

Correlates of L-R Conceptualization

Skills and concepts, of course, do not develop in a

vacuum, but are tied to a variety of antecedent conditions

and influence in turn a variety of consequent developments.

Four.major variables have been discussed in the literature

as antecedents and/or correlates of L-R development: sex,

I.Q., handedness, and reading skills.

Sex and L-R Discrimination

Since males and females show differential rates of

development of various early milestones, the relationship

of sex to the emergence of L-R conceptualization has aroused

the interest of researchers.

Swanson and Benton (1959; Benton, 1959) reported no

significant sex differences at any age level, nor did they

find a consistent sex trend among the different age groups.

Galifret-Granjon (1960, see Laurendeau and Pinard,

1970), Belmont and Birch (1963), Boone and Prescott (1968),

and Laurendeau and Pinard (1970) all tested their data for

differential performance trends by males versus females,

and found no significant differences.

I.Q. and L-R Discrimination

Performance on L-R tasks has been associated with

intellectual capacity ever since Binet and Simon compiled

their original I.Q. battery in 1908 (Benton, 1959). L-R

discrimination was included in the 1911 revision of the

Binet-Simon scales and was also included in the German

(Bobertag, 1911, see Benton, 1959) and American (Stanford-

Binet--Terman, 1916, see Benton, 1959; Laurendeau & Pinard,

1970) adaptations. The L-R test discriminated between

children at different levels of intellectual development.

Benton (1955, 1959) found that a mentally retarded

group (C.A.--nine to 22) with M.A.'s of six, did not differ

significantly from a comparison group of normal youngsters

with similar M.A.'s, on a L-R task. Benton (1959) also

compared normal children between six and nine years (C.A.)

to a group of high I.Q. children (C.A.'s six to nine; I.Q.'s

116 to 138). The high I.Q. group demonstrated accelerated

performances closely corresponding to their M.A.'s. "Indeed

the close correlation between the two variables makes it

possible to conceive of mental age alone as being an

adequate determinant of performance level." (Benton, 1959,

p. 36)

Belmont and Birch (1963) studied a sample of above

average I.Q. children. Although they did not find any

reliable relationship between L-R scores and I.Q.s, they

did note that there was a tendency for children of the same

C.A. level who were in higher grades in school, to perform

somewhat better than their less advanced peers.

In his 1968 review of the topic, Benton stressed the

existence of an intellectual component in addition to the

somatosensory aspects, especially, according to his theory,

at higher levels of L-R conceptualization.

Laurendeau and Pinard (1970) concluded that the "mas-

tery of concepts of left and right is rather directly

related to differences in mental age and I.Q." (p. 259)

All of the above studies, it must be remembered, cov-

ered all aspects of L-R concept formation and not just

stage 1 concepts.

Handedness and L-R Discrimination

In considering right-left discrimination in child-
ren, the question arises as to whether there may be a
relationship between this perceptual skill and the
development of hand preference. Such a relationship
might be postulated on the supposition that the per-
ceptual skill actually develops out of, and is in part
determined by, differential motor usage of the two
hands. It would then be hypothesized that a child who

shows a decided preference for the use of either hand
(i.e., is strongly right-handed or left-handed) will
show a higher degree of efficiency in right-left
discrimination than the one who does not show such a
preference (i.e., is confused or ambidextrous with
respect to handedness). (Benton, 1959,

This statement expresses the basis for Benton's theory of

L-R development--linguistic-symbolic conceptualization

developing from an earlier proprioceptive distinction be-

tween left and right body gradients.

Benton and Menefee (1957) offer weak empirical evidence

supporting a relationship between L-R and handedness.

Benton (1968) cites diverse evidence in support of this

hypothesis. However, Belmont and Birch (1963, 1965),

Coleman and Deutsch (1964), and Laurendeau and Pinard (1970)

minimize or discount the contribution of hand preference to

L-R development. The research in this area thus appears to

be far from conclusive.

Reading Problems and L-R Discrimination

One of the most important (in terms of future develop-

ment) proposed correlates of slower than usual L-R develop-

ment is the emergence of later reading problems.

L-R discrimination abilities it is hypothesized, may

be a precursor to reading skills (e.g. the only difference

between "b" and "d" is the direction of the lower part of

the letter /Hermann, 1959 in Benton, 19627). If this is the

case (Satz & Sparrow, 1970; Satz & Friel, 1972b), then a

test of L-R has potential use as an early predictor of

potential reading problems.

Harris (1957) compared 316 cases of children with

marked reading disabilities, with an unselected sample of

school children of the same age. "At age seven, the most

striking difference between . groups are the higher

proportions of the reading cases who show confusion in

identifying left and right and mixed hand dominance."

(p. 293) Additionally, "ability to distinguish between

left-and right and a clear preference for one hand develop

slowly in a significantly larger percentage of reading dis-

ability cases than in unselected children. This suggests

the presence of a special kind of slowness in maturation,

possibly neurological in nature." (p. 293)

Balow (1963) in a study of first graders, did not find

knowledge of left and right to be a significant factor in

reading achievement.

Coleman and Deutsch (1964) evaluated many studies in

the area of L-R and reading problems. They looked at a

sample of lower S.E.S. children (ages nine years five months

to 12-5) and found some evidence of a correlation between

L-R confusion and reading difficulties in younger children,

but no clear evidence of a causal relationship. While

there are probably some retarded readers who show L-R dis-

orientation (as well as mixed handedness), they concluded

that this group makes up only a very small portion of

problem readers. However, according to Satz and Van

Nostrand (1972) children who develop reading problems would

be expected to have L-R discrimination problems at a much

younger age than in the Coleman and Deutsch sample.

Comparing a group of students (mean age = 9.8 years

with reading problems to matched controls who were average

to good readers, Lovell, Shapton, and Warren (1964) reported

that a number of the poor readers did poorly on a test of


In a comparison of children who systematically reversed

right and left with a control group, Benton (1959) found

that the systematic reversers were deficient in the develop-

ment of language skills (particularly the older children,

i.e. eight and up). Their mean reading scores were more

than one year lower than those of the controls. In his 1968

paper however, Benton questions whether a clearly developed

L-R gradient is a necessary prerequisite for the spatial

and directional habits necessary for reading. He concludes

that: "when the crucial variable of intelligence level is

controlled in comparison of normal and dyslexic children. .

differences in respect to right-left orientation are found

to be minimal and, from a statistical standpoint, nonsig-

nificant." (p. 756) Benton (1968) attributes the trend

toward more systematic reversals by dyslexics, to the under-

lying linguistic-conceptual impairment of dyslexia itself.

Belmont and Birch (1963) appear to discount the causal

relationship between L-R confusion and reading problems,

suggesting that there may be more general neurological fac-

tors underlying both. However in their 1965 paper, the same

authors found that L-R SELF items can be used to discrimi-

nate between normal and retarded readers (age nine-four to

10-4). Despite these statistically reliable results, it

should be noted that 131 of the 150 retarded readers in the

sample achieved perfect scores on the L-R SELF items.

Satz and Sparrow (1970) in reviewing this area con-

cluded that there was significant evidence of a relationship

between L-R confusion and dyslexic problems. Satz and

Friel (1972b) reported that children who were found to be

high risks for developing reading problems show difficulties

in L-R when tested in both kindergarten and grade one. How-

ever, L-R discrimination difficulties did not significantly

discriminate high and low risk subjects when a kindergarten

sample alone was used (Satz & Friel, 1972a)--perhaps

because L-R abilities are just developing in all children

at this age and are not yet discriminative.

In many cases, early L-R difficulties are correlated

with later reading difficulties. Precisely what the under-

lying mechanism is, is subject to some speculation (Satz &

Sparrow, 1970; Satz & Van Nostrand, 1972). Further re-

search into this proposed relationship may help to clarify

these neuropsychological factors and perhaps assist in the

early identification of potential problem readers. Should

L-R development be shown to have more than a mere correla-

tional relationship to later reading problems, the method-

ologies tested in the present study may be shown to have

remedial or even preventive value.


Having reviewed the theoretical and normative studies

of L-R development, one is left with the question of

whether a concept of L-R can be taught to children who fall

below the usual age for the mastery of this concept.

Jeffrey (1958) was able to train a group of four year

olds on a task approximating the L-R SELF discrimination.

The children were presented with two stick figures with

either the left or right arm raised. Using a simple pro-

gramming paradigm, the children were reinforced (listening

to music) for labeling the arms correctly (one arm was to

be called "Jack," and the other "Jill"). The experimental

group was given 20 trials on this task before being given

an intermediate task which called for them to make a motor

response to the same stimuli (pushing one of two buttons

corresponding to "Jack" and "Jill"). After mastering that,

they returned to the original task. The controls, who did

not have training on the motor response task, did not learn

the criterion task (verbal response) despite reinforced

training. The experimental group had no difficulty with

the task.

While it is clear from Jeffrey's study that four year

olds can be taught to discriminate between left and right,

it is not clear whether or not the children have learned

to generalize this concept to new stimulus situations. To

demonstrate the latter, a test of transference of training

is necessary. Specifically, one wonders if Jeffrey's Ss

could, following his training, identify which of their own

arms was "Jack" and which was "Jill." It was this question

which prompted the present study.

While Piaget himself described only gross stages of

L-R concept acquisition and development, Laurendeau and

Pinard (1970) studied these stages in more detail, and were

able to make finer distinctions. They were able to break

Stage 1 of L-R development into two substages--lA and lB.

The failure to show transference of L-R concepts from one

situation to another is characteristic of children at sub-

stage LA. This "is explained by the very unstable and still

undeveloped character of the coordinations intervening in

the concepts of left and right: the child is unable to

transpose into a second situation, or simply to conserve,

the strategy which produced success with the first problem."

When children reach substage 1B "the definition of the

terms "left" and "right," as incomplete and limited as it

still is, is structured strongly enough to be generalized

(even too much) to various situations requiring the use of

these concepts." (Laurendeau & Pinard, 1970, p. 288). It

is apparent that L-R concept acquisition as it normally

emerges, is not a single step process. Sigel (1964) feels

that concept acquisition in general is not unidimensional.

He identifies four processes contributing to concept

learning: discrimination learning ("a primary step"--p.

210), perception, transposition, and generalization.

Taking into account both Laurendeau and Pinard and

Sigel, it appears that Jeffrey's Ss learned a IA concept

involving perception and discrimination. Substage 1B

apparently involves the processes of transposition and

generalization. Jeffrey's study did not measure the trans-

ference of training from the original training situation to

a new one.

The word "conservation" was used by Laurendeau and

Pinard in the above quotation. "Piaget refers to 'conser-

vation' as the ability to hold a property invariant in the

face of transformations." (Sigel, Saltz & Roskind, 1967,

p. 471) This subsumes the processes of generalization and


Given a concept, Piaget is interested in whether the

child can conserve the essentials despite differences in

the stimuli. Substage 1A children do not, by definition,

show conservation of L-R in the face of new stimuli.

Laurendeau and Pinard (1970) place substage lA acquisition

sometime before age five (they did not adequately sample

this age group and so cannot more precisely specify the age

range). Substage 1B acquisition was placed at about five

years-eight months. It would therefore be expected that

four year olds could learn a substage 1A L-R concept while

failing at a conservation measure. This raises the question

of whether four year olds can be taught a sufficiently com-

plete concept of L-R so as to be able to generalize

(conserve) the concept beyond the immediate stimulus


As stated in the introduction, the present study is

not designed as a test of the long-running, complex contro-

versy over learning versus maturation. Rather the objec-

tives are more modest ones--namely to teach a simple L-R

concept to four year olds using an operant methodology, and

to explore the conservation of the concept following this

training. Using a small N (as is proposed in this study)

one cannot hope to examine conclusively the many correlates

of L-R development reviewed earlier, nor indeed to serve as

a critical test of L-R concept acquisition. A more basic

preliminary study seems called for to develop a simple

technique for training Stage 1 L-R concepts and to explore

the parameters of the conservation of this concept in a new

stimulus situation.

In order to develop a methodology for training children

in L-R concept acquisition, pilot research (Schulman, 1972)

was undertaken. Based on this research and the training

paradigm it produced, Allen (1972) designed a similar study,

modifying some of the problems identified in the pilot


Despite Allen's overall conclusions in support of the

training paradigm, only one of her three Ss learned the L-R

transfer tasks. The conclusions to be drawn from this

study remain ambiguous. The one S who showed the best per-

formance on the measures of conservation, did poorest over-

all on the training task--never totally mastering it. A

second S showed at best a tenuous grasp of L-R concepts;

while the third did not attain a demonstrable understanding

of L-R despite the training. Allen's explanation for her

findings suggest that perhaps the Ss' contact with the

training apparatus was spread over too long a period of

time, with too little total training. The viability of the

technique of training the L-R concept remains to be clearly


One major factor in the failure of two of Allen's

three Ss on the transference tasks appeared to be the

limited experience they had with the training task, as well

as the fact that training sessions (three) were each a week

apart, allowing for possible extinction effects. The

present study seeks to expand upon both the earlier pilot

data, and Allen (1972) and more fully examine L-R concept

acquisition and its subsequent transference to a new

stimulus situation.

It is proposed that by establishing lateral placement

as the controlling stimulus in the concept acquisition

training, the concept will show transference to the new

stimulus situation. This is intended as an exploratory

study of conservation of L-R conceptualization given sys-

tematic concept training aimed at fostering stimulus

control in the lateral placement of the stimuli. Failure to

demonstrate the proposed transference will not necessarily

support an alternative maturational hypothesis. However

positive results on this small group of children would have

interesting implications for the early training of concepts

in general and for L-R conceptualization in particular.



The Subjects consisted of five males--age range 3-11

to 4-7. Each child was initially prescreened approximately

one week before the initial training session with a Peabody

Picture Vocabulary Test (Form B) to eliminate potential Ss

with I.Q.'s below the normal range. The five Ss chosen had

I.Q. scores ranging from 102 to 120. The prescreening also

included the three tests making up the Criterion Battery

(see Procedure) to eliminate those children who already

could discriminate right and left. To be chosen as a S the

child had to attain scores between three and seven (out of

a possible 10) on each of the tests (p > 8 = .05, p < 2 =


The parents of the children were paid only if the

child attended all five training sessions. Much time was

spent emphasizing the importance of not practicing L-R con-

cepts with the children while the experiment was still in



Tests Administered

A complete Criterion Test Battery (CB) consisted of:

(1) a test of L-R SELF, (2) a test of L-R OTHER, and (3) a

test of L-R discrimination of non-body stimuli--Arrows


In the test for L-R SELF, the child was asked to point

to various parts of his own body (e.g. left hand, right

foot, etc.). Five general (non-lateralized) body parts

(e.g. head, stomach, etc.) were also included to prevent

perseverative responses and to control for attentional

errors (see Appendix A for L-R SELF Test). The test for

L-R OTHER used the same items as L-R SELF but the child had

to point to the appropriate body parts of the examiner who

sat facing him (see Appendix B). Both L-R SELF and L-R

OTHER were scored on a zero to 10 scale (0 = no items

correct, 10 = perfect score).

The Arrows Test consisted of 10 four inch by six inch

index cards, with a three inch arrow drawn on each of them.

The arrows were drawn at 450, 900, 1350 (pointing right),

2250, 2700, and 3150 (pointing left), angles. The child

was asked to tell if the arrow pointed to the right or to

the left. The test was scored on a zero to 10 basis (0 = no

items correct, 10 = a perfect score).

All three tests contained an equal number of left and

right items, all in random order. The order of the tests

in the CB was Arrows, L-R SELF, and L-R OTHER.

A complete testing session (SES) consisted of an

initial CB (CB pre), L-R training, and a second administra-

tion of the test battery (CBpost). Each child had five

such sessions, one each day for five consecutive days.

Following SES 1 and SES 5, the children were asked to

describe to the E's assistant what they had done and what

they thought the whole procedure was about phenomenologicall

examination). If the children could not respond to this,

they were asked to pretend that they were describing what

they had done, to their best friend--how would they describe

what they had done? Neutral prompting questions were used

to elicit as complete a description as possible.


The L-R training employed a BRS-LVE Human Test Console

(HTC-603). The following accessories were arranged on the

panel (see Figure 1): two Stimulus Tapping Keys (STK-603)

lit with three bulbs each, and an M & M Dispenser (MMD-601)

modified so that it could be centered on the console. The

M & M Dispenser also contained a warning light above it.

The Human Test Console was controlled by a BRS-LVE solid

Figure 1. BRS-Foringer Human Test Console (HTC-603)
with Accessories.

state logic system. This in turn was triggered by a Sony

Stereo Center (TC-630) tape player-recorder which delivered

the auditory stimulus. The Stimulus Tapping Keys were

wired to allow any or all of the three bulbs to be shut off

permitting a range of intensity for the visual stimuli.

A set of 8 ohm RMS Stereo Headphones (HP-8X) were worn

by the S. Potter Brumfield Type 37 Bu, 6V AC Buzzers

("vibrator cuffs") set in velcro strips were placed on each

of the Ss' forearms. The buzzers were powered by a Stancor

P6465 transformer (6.3V @ 0.6 Amp.) and were set at a

vibrating frequency of 60 cycles.

Training--Procedures and Instructions

The child was seated in front of the Human Test Console

(see Fig. 2). The headphones and vibrator cuffs were placed

on the S while the following instructions were read to him:

We're going to play a game now (SHOW CHILD HEADPHONES).
Do you know what these are? Well, you're going to
hear someone say the word 'left' or 'right' when I put
these on you. You're also going to see one of these
windows light up and you're going to feel something on
your arm--kind of like a tickle (SHOW ARM CUFFS TO
CHILD AND GIVE A SAMPLE). I want you to do two things:
first I want you to say the word that you hear, then I
want you to push the window that lights up (DEMONSTRATE
THIS). The tickle will be on the same side as the
lighted window, so if you hear the word 'right' and
feel the tickle on this (R ARM), and see this window
(POINT) light up, I want you to say 'right', and push
this window with this (R) hand. If you do it correctly
you'll get an M & M from here (POINT). If you don't
do it correctly, nothing will come out. You can save

r iJ'rr T?7"C~~

* 4





1 7 21~

F c

-I rl ?


C t~
U.dh A4rA

Figure 2. The S Seated in Front of the Human Test Console.

I INN V'j Mp I t M I

up your M & M's in this dish here if you want to. OK?
When you are all finished, you can use your M & M's to
buy something from the 'store'. You can trade your
M & M's for something from our prize store. (CHECK
Now one other thing. Just before you feel the
tickle and see the lighted window and hear the word
'left' or 'right', this (POINT) will light up to tell
you to get ready.
Remember, when the window lights up and you feel
the tickle, and you hear the word 'right' or 'left',
you say the word you heard and push the lighted window
with the arm that you feel the tickle on. If you do
it correctly you get an M & M. When you have a whole
bunch of M & M's you can trade them in for a prize.

The child was then given several practice trials.

The six phases in the L-R training are outlined in

Table 2. Each phase change consisted of a fading of one or

more of the stimulus dimensions (auditory, lateralization,

tactile, or visual). During Phase 1 (Pl) all of the

stimuli were at maximal intensity with the auditory stimulus

almost totally lateralized in one or the other headphone

channels (corresponding to the laterality of the other

stimuli). The total trial interval was 10 seconds (including

the warning light). The timing of the various stimuli for

P1 are illustrated in Fig. 3. The timing remained con-

stant across phase changes.

P1 continued until the child reached the criterion of

seven consecutive correct trials at which time he moved to


Phases of the L-R Training Task

P1 P2 3 4 P5 6

A = 4

V = ***


V = **

A 2

V= *

A = 2

A = 1


Vibrator-------------------Vibrator Off------------------

A = Auditory stimuli

5 =.monaural
4 = largely monaural
3 = intermediate
2 = largely binaural
1 = binaural

V = Visual stimuli



= panels are bright (lit by 3 bulbs each)
= panels are dimmer (lit by 2 bulbs each)
= panels are very dim (lit by 1 bulb each)
= panels do not light up


V = ***





13 sec. 13 sec.
7 seconds I J 7 seconds

33 sec. 6 sec. sec 6 sec.


5 sec. 5 sec.
13 sec. 2 13 sece 2 sec.

I i


3 sec. 7 seconds


7 seconds


Figure 3.

Timing Diagram for Training Trials During Phase 1.

Note: Stimuli terminated by a response.

M & M's

the next P level (the criterion for movement to succeeding

P levels remained at seven throughout).

After completing P1, the arm cuffs were removed and

the child was told:

You're doing very well. Now we're going to do the
same thing only now you won't feel the tickle.
You'll only see the lighted window and hear the
word "right" or "left". I want you to repeat the
word and push the lighted window the same as
before. OK?

The child continued to work in P2 until the requisite seven

correct consecutive responses were made.

P3 and P4 were not preceded by any new instructions.

Before P5 however the S was told: "This time I'm going to

turn off the lights in the windows and I want you to repeat

the word 'right' or 'left', and push the correct window even

though they don't light up. You will still get M & M's

when you say the correct word and push the correct window.

Any questions?"

P6 was not preceded by further instructions. Following

P6 the CB was readministered (CBpost). The child was then

permitted to trade in his M & M's for a toy or other candy.

Left and right trials were randomized. The child con-

tinued to work on the training apparatus until he had

attained criterion at all six phases. If he failed to

reach criterion, he continued at the same phase until he

completed the maximum of 125 trials for the session. The

maximum length of a training session was between 15 and 20


Methodological Issues


SAs reviewed in earlier sections, there are numerous

parameters of L-R concept formation which are of interest

and importance. Since the present study was designed to

concentrate on training and conceptual factors, between

subject differences (sex, I.Q. range) were held constant,

and a small sample design concentrating on within subject

differences, was chosen. The contribution of handedness to

L-R development is open to question and was not tested in

the present investigation.

Tests Administered

In response to Belmont and Birch's (1963) criticism of

studies which used too few criterion items in their L-R

testing, 10 lateralized items were included in this study.

The children in this investigation were not directly

trained in responding to L-R OTHER, and one would hardly

expect four year olds to demonstrate proficiency on this

difficult task. However, Laurendeau and Pinard (1970) dis-

tinguished two levels of Stage 1 concepts. At Stage 1B,

the concept of an egocentric left and right is so strong

that the child is consistently correct when tested on L-R

SELF, and consistently in error (systematic reversal--using

his own body as a reference point) on L-R OTHER. At Stage

1A (a somewhat earlier substage) the child is inconsistent

in his responses to L-R OTHER, while showing consistent

correct performance on L-R SELF. It was therefore to

measure the level and strength of L-R acquisition, that L-R

OTHER was included in the present research.

The Arrows Test was designed as an extrapersonal

measure of L-R which, unlike Piaget's tests for extraper-

sonal L-R (Piaget, 1928; Laurendeau & Pinard, 1970), does

not require higher level L-R concepts. It is based essen-

tially at an egocentric, Stage 1, level. Allen's (1973)

L-R Card's Test seems to call for Stage 3 judgements while

ostensibly measuring Stage 1 concepts. The Arrows Test is

closer in both stimulus and response characteristics to the

training task than either L-R SELF or L-R OTHER. It was

hypothesized that it would prove easier for the subjects

and serve as an intermediate measure of transfer of


Training Task

Laurendeau and Pinard (1970) emphasize that the usual

sequence in L-R development is that the child uses his body

as a reference point to distinguish laterality (egocentric

L-R). Jeffrey's (1958) design (using an external L-R

referrent) goes counter to this model of normal development

and was therefore rejected in favor of keeping the child's

own body as the point of reference.

Jeffrey (1958) suggests that the manipulation of the

stimulus dimension might facilitate learning of the L-R

task. Terrace's (1963 a & b) technique of errorless dis-

crimination (fading) seemed to offer a precise means of

manipulating this dimension. Sensory prompts were therefore

included, using a fading training design. Benton (1968),

in distinguishing between the somatosensory and linguistic-

symbolic components of L-R, points out the multiple factors

involved in the concept. Therefore both somatosensory

(tactile) and linguistic prompts were included, as well as

sound lateralization and visual cues. The ultimate aim of

the L-R training was to establish laterality as the con-

trolling stimulus.

On the response side, Jeffrey (1958) demonstrated that

a tactile response facilitated the acquisition of the verbal

L-R discrimination. Therefore a tactile response (as well

as a verbal response) was employed in the training design.

Statistical Treatment

Since this study was designed to use an extremely

small N, statistical analyses were necessarily kept to a

minimum. The Friedman Two-Way Analysis of Variance by

Ranks (Siegel, 1956) was applied to test for the effects of

the training sessions on the S's performance on the cri-

terion measures. A stepwise regression (BMD-02R program)

was applied to the data for L-R SELF and L-R OTHER to test

for linear trends in CB performance across training sessions.

Data from a pilot group of four Ss (Schulman, 1972)

was combined with the present data for several supplemen-

tary statistical analyses. Since the data thus pooled is

not quite comparable, it was used only to look for trends

not otherwise easily ascertained with the smaller N. These

pilot Ss were given an earlier version of the training

paradigm (somewhat longer--criterion was 10 correct res-

ponses; auditory cues were always lateralized; four training

sessions were held, each.one week or more apart). Since an

earlier version of the Arrows Test was used, those scores

were not used in the supplementary analyses. The scores on

L-R SELF and L-R OTHER in these analyses, represent

performance over the course of four training sessions

without regard for the timing of these sessions. The

following statistical treatments were applied: (a) Wilcoxon

Matched-Pairs Signed-Ranks Test (Siegel, 1956) to test for

differences between criterion scores on the first pre-

training CB and the CB following SES 4; (b) Spearman Rank

Correlation Coefficient tests were performed on the I.Q.,

age, and L-R data to measure any performance-intelligence,

or performance-age relationships.


The performance of the five Ss on the L-R SELF test

is illustrated in Figure 4. None of the Ss made any errors

on the non-lateralized control items in the CB. It is

apparent that none of the Ss except for J.R. showed ap-

preciable transference of learning from the training ses-

sions to L-R SELF. A Friedman Two Way ANOVA did not

produce any statistically significant differences between

sessions across subjects.

The Arrows test was also subject to the Friedman Two

Way ANOVA. Despite the greater similarity of this test to

the training task, this statistical analysis was again non-

significant. The performance of the Ss on the Arrows test

is plotted in Figure 5. J.R. began with a perfect score of

10 correct responses (on the pre-screening administration

of this test over a week earlier, he scored seven out of 10

correct). He maintained this superior level of performance

across the training sessions. J.S. showed some improvement

following the last training session. However this was not

paralleled in his performance on L-R SELF or L-R OTHER, nor


-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-



-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-



-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-



-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-


I P = Pre-training administration

T = Post-training administration

-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-


Figure 4. Subjects' Performance on L-R SELF--Correct Responses.

-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-




-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-


-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-


1 P = Pre-training administration
,T = Post-training administration

-1- -2- 3- -4- -5-


Figure 5. Subjects' Performance on Arrow's Test--Correct Responses.

-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-

is this improvement sufficiently great nor part of a

pattern of improvement, to imply acquisition of a L-R


The data for the L-R OTHER test is presented in

Figure 6. Improvement on this test, for this age group,

would be indicated by a decrease in correct responses

(consistent reversal). Again J.R. is the only subject to

perform in the predicted direction. As with the other

tests in the CB, the Friedman Two Way ANOVA performed on

the Arrows scores, was not significant.

-When stepwise regressions were applied to the CB data,

no significant linear trends were found.

The error trends for each of the participants on the

training task are presented, according to training session,

in Table 3. There are no clear cut patterns appearing

across the sessions. J.S. and J.R. made somewhat fewer

errors at the last two sessions than at the first two.

However J.G., B.D., and M.B. show an increase in errors for

sessions 4 and 5. The subject with the fewest total errors

on the training task, J.S., did not show a comparable per-

formance on any of the tests in the criterion battery. J.G.

made many more errors (in fact more errors than the total of

the other four Ss) on the training task than the others,

M- t I I- b .\ 4fr .\ |-
-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-

-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-


k ]^



I u

-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-


D P = Pre-traihing administration
N T = Post-training administration

-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-


-' -BU-

-1- -2- -3- -4- -5-


Figure 6. Subjects' Performance on L-R OTHER--Correct Responses.


Subject Errors on Training Task by Session

Session J.S. J.G.(a) B.D. J.R. M.B.

1 5 37+ 17 14 11

2 3 39+ 1 3 8

3 4 44+ 3 4 0

4 0 53+ 11 0 8

5 1 54+ 10 1 34

Totals 13 226+ 42 22 61

(a)+ indicates that criterion of seven consecutive
correct trials were not met at the end of 125 trials for
either P5 or P6.

not reaching criterion for P6 at sessions 1, 2, 3, and 5,

and not reaching criterion for P5 at session 4. Neverthe-

less he did not perform the poorest on the CB. In fact,

he showed a slight improvement on L-R SELF and L-R OTHER

over the course of the five sessions.

Table 4 illustrates subjects' errors on the training

task broken down by phase of training. It appears as

though P5 and P6 were the most difficult parts of the

training for all the Ss. P1 thru P4 were rather quickly

mastered by all the Ss. J.G. never mastered P6 and per-

formed very poorly at P5. Table 5 shows the S's errors at

P5 and P6 of the training for the last two training ses-

sions. J.R., who performed best on the CB, went through

these phases of training without error. J.S. too seems to

have mastered P5 and P6 (only one error). All the other Ss

still had difficulty with the last two phases right through

the fourth and fifth training sessions.

Phenomenological Inquiry

Following SES 1 and SES 5, the Ss were interviewed to

elicit their perceptions of the testing and training pro-

cedures. The following comments were made following SES 1:

J.S. "I don't know. Q I went to bed. Q I don't know.
I got some M & M's, then I pushed the button,
then I was done."


Subject Errors on Training Task by Phase

Phase J.S. J.G.(a) B.D. J.R. M.B.

P1 3 4 0 4 0

P2 2 0 1 1 0

P3 1 0 0 1 0

P 0 1 1 3 7
P 4 99+ 24 10 15

P6 3 123+ 16 3 39

(a)+ indicate that criterion of seven consecutive
correct trials were not met at the end of 125 trials for
one or more sessions.


Subject Errors at SES 4 and 5 on Phase 5 and 6

Phase J.S. J.G.(a) B.D. J.R. M.B.

P5 0 89+ 7 0 12

P6 1 18+ 5 0 30

(a)+ indicates that criterion of seven consecutive
correct trials was not met at the end of 125 trials.

(b)SES 5 only. At SES 4 J.G. never reached criterion
on P5 and therefore never got to P6.

J.G. "I don't know. M & M's came out. Q I don't know.
I went in here the other day."

B.D. "We winned these M & M's. I picked everytime
that lady say something. I knew what the right
word was."

J.R. "I can't remember. Q Got M & M's. Q Push the

M.B. "I don't know. Q (What would you tell your
friends you did today?) Um, I would tell them
nothing. Q I played with friends. Q I worked
the M & M machine and I got a lot. Q Press
those buttons."

Following the final session, the children made the following


J.S. "Put the ear muffs on, then the tickle touch is
on, then look at the arrows. Q (How do you get
M & M's?) From the machine. Q (Why don't you
get M & M's all the time?) They get stuck.
Q I don't know."

J.G. "I did that (pointed). Q M & M machine. Q I got
some M & M's. Q I pressed the window. Q Then I
got some M & M's. I had to put them in a dish.
Q I had to press the button. Q (Say anything?)
A word. Q (How come you don't get M & M's all
the time?) Cause. Q When I press the wrong
buttons. Q The light was on. Q (How about when
the light was not on?) I don't know."

B.D. "You got to push the buttons to get M & M's.
Q You got to think. Q The sound says right or
left (He identified the buttons on the machine
as the right one and the left one--incorrectly.)."

J.R. "Nothing. Q Nothing. M & M's. Q (From where?)
Out of the machine. Q Push the button. Q I hear
something out of those. Q Right or left. Q Push
the button when I hear 'right' (he pushed the
left button but immediately corrected himself).

When I hear 'left' I push this button. An M & M
comes out if you do it right."

M.B. "You press the buttons. Q Do the arrows and point
to yourself. Q (What do you hear?) Left and
Right. Q M & M's. Q Say a word. Q Right and
left. Press the button."

It was observed that when given the Arrows Test, J.R.

used his hands and his body to orient himself to left and


Supplementary Analyses

Combining the data for the five Ss (except for SES 5)

with the data gathered from the four pilot Ss (Schulman,

1972)-, Wilcoxon Matched-Pairs Signed-Ranks Test were used

to test for differences between Pre-SES 1 scores and Post-

SES 4 scores on L-R SELF and L-R OTHER. Neither of the

two analyses proved statistically significant.

With so small a sample, the effects of I.Q. differ-

ences are difficult to accurately assess. A Spearman Rank

Order Correlation of Peabody I.Q. scores and L-R SELF

scores did not demonstrate any significant relationships.

A similar test to assess age--performance relationships was

similarly non-significant. Correlations of I.Q. scores and

age with L-R OTHER scores were also performed, and proved



Of the four pilot Ss, one performed much like J.R.

After one training session, he attained a perfect score on

all three criterion measures, and maintained this level.

The other three Ss did not master the tasks. No data on

the performance of these Ss during the training sessions

is available.


This study examined two aspects of L-R concept for-

mation--the training of the basic concept (substage 1A) and

the conservation of the concept in different stimulus

situations (substage 1B).

Despite exposure to what was designed to be an inten-

sive period of training in the basic concept of L-R, only

two of the five Ss appear to have mastered the L-R training

task. Only one of these two Ss (J.R.) showed appreciable

transference of learning to the Criterion Battery. These

results raise serious questions about the viability of the

design and methodology of the basic L-R training task.

Looking at Allen's (1972) three Ss and Schulman's

(1972) four pilot Ss, one subject in each study seemed to

have shown transference to the criterion tests following

training. This makes a total of three out of 12 Ss, when

the present study is included, who were able to demonstrate

conservation of L-R conceptualization following somewhat

similar training paradigms. Out of these three, one may

have had a rough L-R concept before beginning training

(J.R. began the week with a perfect score of 10 on the

Arrows Test), and one (Allen, 1972) did poorly on the

training task. Performance on the original training task

was below expectations in each study.

The present study failed to adequately train all of

the Ss on the L-R discrimination task, making the issue of

conservation (transference) somewhat premature. One is

tempted to try to explain the results away on the basis of

a maturational argument i.e. those Ss who could not learn

the original L-R task and/or the transfer tasks, were

simply too developmentally immature. "The objection that

the apparent 'age of emergence' is dependent on the specific

experimental procedures utilized does not pose insuperable

difficulties for the concept of 'levels'. This objection

does, however, suffice to demonstrate that any stated 'age

of emergence' must be arbitrary until the effects of all

relevant variables have been systematically explored, so

that extraneous factors . which may hinder the younger

Ss from responding to the relevant cues . are identified

and eliminated." (Braine, 1968, p. 191) As Braine states,

it is necessary to examine all potentially relevant variables

rather than using maturational level as a total solution.

In a critique of the numerous failures in research

designed to teach early concepts, Sigel (1964) observed

that "possibly they did not employ sufficiently long

training periods nor ascertain with any precision the

necessary sequences as preludes to learning." (p. 240)

These criticisms would seem to apply to the present study,

in particular to the lack of precise pretested learning


Reviewing the data on the training task, it becomes

apparent that P1 through P4 presented few consistent dif-

ficulties for the Ss. However P5 and P6--where the visual

cues were eliminated--presented difficulties for most of

the Ss, leading perhaps to an incomplete acquisition of the

discrimination of L-R within the training paradigm. Appar-

ently for most of the Ss, the switch from P4 (dim light) to

P5 (no lights) was too large a change. The light seems to

have become the controlling stimulus (Honig, 1966) rather

than the lateral placement of the panels. The original aim

was that by gradual fading, the laterality would become the

controlling stimulus. "Most subjects, normal and patho-

logical, perform on the same level, whether their eyes are

open or closed; in other words, independently of whether

their identifications are visually directed." (Benton,

1968, p. 749) It appears then, that the training task

placed control in a stimulus dimension which is minimally

used in the normal development of L-R discrimination. The

training thus did not serve to parallel (with acceleration)

normal L-R development. There was insufficient considera-

tion of the possible effects of the order of the fading of

the training cues. The children's performance demonstrates


The phase changes from P4 to P5 were too large step

changes as is apparent from the number of errors made at P5.

Most -of the subjects were unable to move from the light as

the controlling stimulus (P4) to laterality as the control-

ling stimulus (P5). The subjects' own statements illus-

trate the shortcomings of the training procedure.

Looking at the phenomenological inquiry data, J.R. was

the only subject to demonstrate verbal comprehension of the

relationship of the verbal cues ("left" and "right") to the

proper lateral cues, following the final training session.

B.D. seemed to have some idea of the procedure, although

his performance as well as his verbalizations demonstrated

that he did not fully grasp the task after five training

sessions. The other Ss seemed to be attending more to the

reinforcers (the M & M's) than to the task. Perhaps the

substitution of marbles or tokens which could be traded in

later (as could the M & M's) would have improved attention

to the task. However there appeared to be an interaction

between task difficulty and inattention. The increased

difficulty of P5 and P6 appeared to increase the children'

lack of attention.

Benton (1968) and Kephart (cited in Phillips, 1969)

stress proprioceptive and perceptual-motor cues as the

basis for the development of L-R discrimination. It should

be noted that J.R. used his body in a very overt way to

orient himself to L-R on the Arrows Test. This suggests

that perhaps the ordering of the phases should have been

different, with P1 (tactile) being the last cue to be faded

out--and in a more gradual manner than was done. Another

possible means of increasing these proprioceptive and per-

ceptual-motor cues, might have been to begin by placing the

"push panels" so far apart that the child had to physically

turn his body to push the panels. The distance between the

panels could then have been gradually brought closer to-

gether. This might have put increased stimulus control in

lateral cues and increased learning as well as transference.

Allen (1972) suggested the possibility that different

children are more sensitive to different sensory modalities

(and hence different cues) on an individualized basis. All

of these possible variations of the stimulus dimension and

the order of fading should have been explored more system-

atically in pilot assessments. They now remain to be

explored in future research.

Since the present investigation was not able to ade-

quately teach the basic L-R discrimination task (substage

1A), a complete analysis of the problem of task conser-

vation on criterion tasks is somewhat premature. However

the basic questions remain as to whether, given training

in L-R discrimination, conservation can be expected without

specific exposure to the new stimulus situations. This

question warrants at least a preliminary consideration of

some of the dimensions of this problem.

Sigel, Saltz and Roskind (1967) conclude that the

emergence of conservation is a maturational development of

the ability to tolerate irrelevant stimulation, and to

focus on the central stimuli. If Sigel et al. are correct,

no amount of training should lead to transference. However

the literature on transference of training suggests several

factors which might help foster the conservation of a con-

cept such as L-R.

"Children have narrow concepts which are disrupted by

stimulus alteration." (Sigel, Saltz & Roskind, 1967)

The greater the number of irrelevant dimensions the child

must attend to, the greater the transference difficulties

(Lipsitt & Eimas, 1972). In the design of the present

study, the attempt was made to narrow the child's attention

to only a single stimulus dimension--laterality. Pre-

sumably this would increase the chances of positive trans-

ference occurring. The previously suggested design changes

in the training task are aimed at narrowing the child's

attention even further. Presumably this might have some

carryover to the transference tasks (which were based on

a concept of laterality having been acquired).

Additionally as Sigel (1964) pointed out, insufficiently

long training periods hamper concept training. Similarly,

it is known that overlearning assists transfer of training

by helping the subject to ignore irrelevant stimulus dimen-

sions. Therefore both to assist initial L-R concept

acquisition and performance on the criterion tasks, in-

creased training trials should be attempted. Given improve-

ments in the methodology, an increase in the child's

exposure to the training task might facilitate transference.

Positive transfer of training is fostered by holding

response variables constant and changing the stimuli

(Bruce, 1933). The criterion tests (L-R SELF, Arrows, and

L-R OTHER) required different responses than did the

training task. The Arrows test could easily be changed to

require the same response as the training task, i.e. "Push

the correct button and say if the arrow is pointing to the

left or to the right.". L-R SELF and L-R OTHER are less

amenable to such a change. However the contribution of

response similarity would become more obvious were L-R SELF

and OTHER contrasted with the redesigned Arrows test.

The teaching of a general principle facilitates trans-

fer (Judd, 1908; Andrews & Cronbach, 1966). "Transfer of

a previously acquired behavior-pattern to a new situation

will occur whenever an individual recognizes the new situa-

tion as similar to the situation for which the behavior was

learned." (Andrews & Cronbach, 1966, p. 548) Given these

principles, perhaps a general statement relating the

training task to the criterion tasks would help establish

a set conducive to conservation.

The aforementioned transfer of training variables

offer several dimensions which can be manipulated to help

produce conservation of L-R concepts. Further research is

needed to help determine to what degree conservation of

L-R concepts are subject to training. Precisely how much

"guidance" and directed training the child of four needs in

order to be able to generalize L-R concepts, to a new

situation remains to be demonstrated.

It is apparent that a great deal of normative longi-

tudinal data in the area of L-R concept development is

needed. Were more of the naturally occurring antecedents

of L-R development known, more effective methods of teaching

the concept (including the conservation of the concept)

might become possible. Additionally, the precise relation-

ship of several suggested important correlates of L-R

conceptualization to future development, remain to be

explored in a large scale normative study. Among these

correlates are handedness (Benton, 1959; 1968), I.Q. (par-

ticularly PIQ--see Belmont & Birch, 1968), reading develop-

ment, and neuropsychological development in general.

Longitudinal research, such as the research program of Satz

(Satz & Friel, 1972a; Satz & Van Nostrand, 1972) are in-

dicative of the type of research necessary to more adequately

describe a child's developmental pattern.

Methodological and design problems make it difficult to

draw clearcut conclusions from the present study. However

there is some evidence (Jeffrey, 1958; as well as two Ss

in the present study and one pilot S) that L-R discrim-

ination (substage lA) can be taught to children who are

below the usual age for concept acquisition. Additionally,

J.R. was able to show conservation of a L-R concept

(substage 1B), as was one pilot S and one of Allen's Ss.

Methodological modifications both in the training procedure

for the basic L-R concept, as well as modifications of the

transfer task dimension should increase the likelihood of

more consistently teaching young children a substage lB L-R




"Point to your . .

1. right ear

2. nose

3. left eye

4. left leg

5. mouth

6. right eye

7. left hand

8. right leg

9. head

10. right hand

11. left ear

12. neck

13. right eye

14. stomach

15. left leg



"Point to my . "

1. Stomach

2. left ear

3. right hand

4. left eye

5. nose

6. left leg

7. mouth

8. right eye

9. right ear

10. left hand

11. neck

12. right hand

13. right leg

14. head

15. left leg


'Benton, 1959; Laurendeau &

2Laurendeau & Pinard, 1970;

3Benton, 1959

Benton, 1959; Laurendeau &

Piaget, 1928; Laurendeau &

Shemyakin, 1959

Shemyakin, 1959

Laurendeau & Pinard, 1970

Pinard, 1970

Benton, 1959

Pinard, 1970

Pinard, 1970


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Howard Mark Schulman was born January 7, 1948 in New

York, New York. He attended public schools in New York

City and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School,

Brooklyn, New York, in June of 1964. He attended Brooklyn

College, Brooklyn, New York and was a recipient of a New

York State Regent's Scholarship and a Generoso Pope Scholar-

ship.- In June of 1968 he received a Bachelor of Arts

degree, Cum Laude With Honors in Psychology.

He entered the graduate program in clinical psychology

at the University of Florida in September, 1968. While

pursuing his studies at the University of Florida he has

been supported as a United States Public Health Service

Trainee, a Psychology Department Teaching Assistant and as

a Veterans Administration Psychology Trainee.

In December of 1971 he received the Master of Arts

degree in psychology from the University of Florida.

Mr. Schulman completed a one year internship in

clinical psychology at Area C Community Mental Health

Center in Washington, D.C. in September, 1973.


Since October, 1973 he has been employed as Staff

Clinical Psychologist with the Department of Social and

Preventive Medicine of the University of Maryland in


I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Paul Satz, Chairman
Professor of Psychology

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Hugh Y. Davis
Professor of Psychology

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

William D. Wolking
Professor of Special Edu ion

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Anastasia Wells
Assistant Professor of

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Bert E. Swanson
Professor of Political Science

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate
Faculty of the Department of Psychology in the College of
Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate Council, and was
accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

June, 1974

Dean, Graduate School

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