Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Emergent Relational Responding Based upon Quantity and Equivalence

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Emergent Relational Responding Based upon Quantity and Equivalence

Article excerpt

Emergent relational responding provides the basis for the study of complex instances of stimulus control that comprise much of the repertoires of human subjects. What is meant by emergent relational responding is the establishment of baseline stimulus-stimulus relations that are propaedeutic to the subsequent demonstration of untrained stimulus-stimulus relations (Hayes, 1991). Part of a behavioral analysis of such generative performances entails the demonstration of stimulus equivalence (Sidman, 1986; Sidman & Tailby, 1982). For example, the Arabic numeral ("2"), written word ("TWO"), and various physical quantities (e.g., "two marbles") can all come to function as equivalent stimuli for the stimulus class "two" and may show reflexivity, symmetry, transitivity, and equivalence among its members (Sidman & Tailby, 1982).

However, other types of emergent stimulus relations are also necessary to begin accounting for complex instances of stimulus control individuals encounter in natural settings. A recent account of complex stimulus control has been offered by Hayes (1991) and Hayes and Hayes (1992) in what these authors refer to as "relational frame theory." Relational frame theory represents a general outline of stimulus-stimulus responding in which stimulus class membership can be based upon a number of relational types (of which equivalence is one unique type of relational responding). Although most studies to date have focused upon the development of stimulus classes in which all members are defined by equivalence (cf. Sidman, 1992; Spradlin, Saunders, & Saunders, 1992), researchers are beginning to study more heterogeneous stimulus classes. By heterogeneous stimulus control what is meant is that multiple types of basic stimulus control processes are synthesized to establish complex stimulus classes.

One approach has been presented by Fields, Reeves, Adams, and Verhave (1991) and Fields, Adams, Brown, and Verhave (1993) who have studied the interrelation between equivalence and primary stimulus generalization. Their results have demonstrated that both types of stimulus control processes can participate as controlling relations in stimulus classes. Such analyses demonstrate the ability of experimenters to synthesize basic stimulus control functions to create heterogeneous stimulus relations within stimulus classes.

Another approach to constructing heterogeneous stimulus classes has been demonstrated by Steele and Hayes (1992) who studied stimulus classes defined by multiple types of emergent relational responding. These authors examined the relations that emerge within and between stimulus classes based upon three types of relations - "same," "different," and "opposite." By demonstrating how stimuli interact both within stimulus classes, as well as between, Steele and Hayes have extended the concept of heterogeneous stimulus control to multiple relations within and between stimulus classes.

The demonstrations by Fields and colleagues and Hayes and colleagues provide the basis for furthering our experimental understanding of stimulus classes based upon multiple types of relational responding. If we can bring together various stimulus control processes in previously undemonstrated combinations, a better understanding of how such instances of complex stimulus control are related to naturally occurring instances of socially defined stimulus controls may be forthcoming. One such extension might be to experimentally study the interrelation between equivalence classes defining specific stimulus characteristics (e.g., "greater than" or "less than") and the relative stimulus control such classes have with other stimuli (e.g., the presence of various quantities).

In the current investigation, we sought to study the possibility of emergent relational responding defined by nonsymmetric stimulus controls (e.g., "greater than" or "less than") within the framework of stimulus classes based on equivalence, Initially, we attempted to establish, using a single-sample/single-comparison procedure, subject performances that were consistent with the definition of two 3-member equivalence classes. …

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