Importance of Stimulus Generalization

The phenomenon of generalization of the stimulus occurs when a specific reaction that was to the previous stimulus occurs on the following similar. This is practically explained when parents teach their children colors and shapes. Then infants can remember what a red triangle looks like and, as a result, distinguish similar colors and objects on their own. However, for faster learning, the stimuli must be related so that the child will be easier to summarize the signs and identify them. However, excessive generalization of incentives can produce problems. For example, when students in the store are accustomed to the question ‘How can I help you?’ when they hear ‘ What do you want?’; concentration may be lost. It is important to note that some stimuli do not need to be taught; the child receives them through their own perception (Alberto, et al., 2013).

Teachers often want students to continue to behave in a certain way even after systematic performance analysis procedures have lessened. Continuing to perform particular functions over an extended period is called maintenance. It means that students will be able to accomplish tasks after learning. Even in the case when their actions are no longer supervised, or there is no specific program to systematically reinforce the material (Alberto, et al., 2013). The abrupt lack of control that previously occurred can lead to fading behavior. However, it can help distract from disruptive conduct. On the other hand, it can be frustrating if, after some time, the teacher realizes that the performance is no longer being followed.

As a rule, a change in reaction to one type of behavior leads to other differences in similar behavior. Children adopt the behavior according to the selected model. Such behavior is often called a class of reactions. However, changes in similar, untrained behaviors are a generalization of reactions. For example, if students are constantly solving math problems of one topic, then there is a large percentage that they will quickly understand other elements. The generalization of the answers occurs when the child demonstrates in a new way the positive learned behavior, and this allows teachers to assess the progress of the child. In this way, the child will be able to pick up and practice the most appropriate behavior in certain situations (Alberto, et al., 2013).

The child’s brain has the ability to assimilate unplanned generalizations. This can happen in cases where the trained skill is beneficial for the student or when the skill is supported by specific practical observations. It is proved that most of the forms of behavior that are taught to ordinary children and children with mild disabilities are generalized. If a child is motivated to read, he will not only read books but also signs in stores. However, such spontaneous generalization is much less likely in children with severe disabilities. Even though children perform daily behaviors automatically, for children with severe disabilities, it requires effort. Therefore, such children need periodic reinforcement of the learning, which demands additional training. Therefore, a teacher who hopes for progress should closely monitor student behavior and implement more effective procedures (Alberto, et al., 2013).

This procedure seeks to generalize the stimulus or transfer specific learning characteristics to other conditions. Its basic idea is to apply methods that have already proven successful in certain conditions to other situations where the target behavior needs to be modified. It demonstrates a functional relationship between independent and dependent variables. It is also essential that more people need to be involved for this procedure to be successful. It means that teachers, parents, and other child care professionals demand to understand the methodology of the same student behavior modes used during the learning process. It helps in the manner of getting new skills and is especially effective in reinforcing positive results. Modified versions of the procedure are also helpful and provide a sufficient level of control (Alberto, et al., 2013).

This technique involves developing a student’s general behavior, which will be reinforced in their natural conditions. Its result implies that pupils’ will be diligent in completing tasks and behaving appropriately in class. Some of the incentives for this conduct change are praise, good grades, or monetary rewards. The skills learned are retained after the education is completed, as the process is as comfortable and rewarding as possible. The focus is on learning functional skills, intending to maximize children’s independence. The maintenance ability of the environment is most influenced by observations of the student’s environment and reinforcement-seeking skills from the external environment. Social support is critical; a sufficient level of understanding the subtleties of nonverbal communication can increase the anchoring potential of the external environment (Alberto, et al., 2013).

Training a high number of academic and social behavior patterns is essential to adapt children to different types of situations. Since it is not always possible to act on one template with the minimum difference. Programming on general examples allows children with disabilities to simulate many situations, which increases the chances of application in real life. If teachers want to teach a child to distinguish red objects, it is not necessary to show absolutely all red things. The correct strategy is to present one variant of the most different subjects, that the child has formed an idea of ​​diversity. At the same time, for students with disabilities, it is essential to pay great attention to the selection of objects. Therefore, the choice of incentives is crucial in the formation of the general case. The use of simulations, including videos, can admit tutors to practice more behaviors without leaving the classroom. A strategy that changes instructors is also thriving, showing situations unpredictably (Alberto, et al., 2013).

Traditional methods of teaching children with disabilities are standardized. They require adherence to the same format and the submission of items in a predetermined sequence. Nevertheless, there is a requirement to master one skill before learning another. However, there are now innovative teaching methods based on long-term research. In the procedure of parallel learning, two different classes of reactions change, which leads to the development of two abilities at once. Moreover, the new method does not increase the total time required to learn the skills. It is evident that teaching students one experience before learning another does not add effectiveness unless the first skill is a prerequisite for the second. Although the alternation of learning in the classroom not only does not interfere with learning but leads to better results (Alberto, et al., 2013). The practice of naturalistic or loose learning is a departure from the traditions of special education. Its success shows the need for teacher development and the application of new strategies.

Resistance to extinction or maintenance of behavior is greatly enhanced when intermittent reinforcement schedules are used. Even if the support is eliminated, the behavior will continue. If intermittent reinforcement must last indefinitely, it can be somewhat effective and economical in maintaining the behavior with a very sparse schedule. One strategy that can lead to generalization under different conditions is to delay the issuance of reinforcement. Fine schedules are the most commonly used way to make support conditions indiscriminate (Alberto, et al., 2013). Evidence shows that any procedure that makes it difficult for learners to determine when circumstances are in effect is likely to lead to more prolonged behavior change, both in the initial training set and other environments.

The similarity of behavior across certain conditions depends partly on the number of stimulus coincidences between those situations. It is the similar characteristics of stimuli that are the phenomena based on which generalizations can be made. A possible method of achieving maintenance is the purposeful programming of similar stimuli in training conditions. It can be achieved by increasing the similarity of the training situation to the natural environment. In addition, it is essential to note that the use of peers as stimuli is very effective (Alberto, et al., 2013). Community-based programming for people with disabilities is now a common practice. Relatively simple and cost-effective measures can help ensure reliable generalization in many settings and maintain the gains made long after the training has ended.


Alberto, P., Troutman, A. C., & Axe, J. B. (2013). Applied behavior analysis for teachers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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PsychologyWriting. "Importance of Stimulus Generalization." September 22, 2023.