Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Constructing Relational Sentences: Establishing Arbitrarily Applicable Comparative Relations with the Relational Completion Procedure

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Constructing Relational Sentences: Establishing Arbitrarily Applicable Comparative Relations with the Relational Completion Procedure

Article excerpt

An extensive empirical literature now attests to the fact that human participants may come to respond in accordance with multiple stimulus relations, such as Same and Opposite, Before and After, and More Than and Less Than (e.g., Berens & Hayes, 2007; Dymond & Whelan, 2010; Hyland, O'Hora, Smyth, & Leslie, 2012; Munnelly, Dymond, & Hinton, 2010; for a review, see Dymond, May, Munnelly, & Hoon, 2010). Derived comparative relations, such as More Than/Less Than, are involved "whenever one event is responded to in terms of a quantitative or qualitative relation along a specified dimension with another event" (Hayes, Fox, Gifford, Wilson, Barnes-Holmes, & Healy, 2001, p. 36). Comparative relations, such as More Than and Less Than, are first learned with nonarbitrary stimuli differing along a specified physical dimension, such as size or quantity, but may be brought to bear on any arbitrary (physically dissimilar) stimuli, given appropriate contextual cues. That is, relational responding may emerge that is not based on the formal, physical properties between the stimuli but rather the arbitrary relational context in which the stimuli are encountered. For instance, a young child may learn that "X is taller than Y," and when asked, "Which is shorter?" he or she may subsequently respond, "Y," without any further training. According to relational frame theory (Hayes, Fox, et al., 2001; Torneke, 2010), such instances of arbitrarily applicable derived comparative relations are controlled solely by the contextual cues "taller" and "shorter," not by physical cues, and these relations may be applied to any stimuli regardless of their Physical properties.

Studies examining derived comparative relations of More Than and Less Than have relied heavily on variants of the matching-to-sample (MTS) protocol. For instance, Reilly, Whelan, and Barnes-Holmes (2005) employed a contextually controlled NITS training and testing paradigm to examine comparative responding among adult participants to a five-member relational network. Reilly et al. compared response latencies to arbitrary test relations in three training groups: All-More. All-Less, and Less-More. The first phase of the experiment, termed nonarbitrary relational training, aimed to establish contextual control for two cues, More Than and Less Than. For example, participants were presented with one and two basketballs as comparison stimuli in the presence of the MORE THAN contextual cue, where correct selections of two basketballs were reinforced. Nonarbitrary relational testing, which involved the presentation of novel stimulus sets in the absence of feedback, followed. Participants were then exposed to arbitrary relational training involving abstract visual images (i.e., with stimuli that were unrelated to one another along a consistent physical dimension) with the MORE THAN and LESS THAN contextual cues. Participants in the All-More group were trained on B > A, C > B, D > C, and E > D in the presence of the MORE THAN contextual cue, the All-Less group on A < B, B < C, C < D, and D < E in the presence of the LESS THAN cue, and the Less-More group on A < B and B < C in the presence of the LESS THAN cue and D > C and E > D in the presence of the MORE THAN cue (it is important to note that > and < are used here to denote the contextual cues of "more than" and "less than," respectively. Participants were not exposed to these inequality symbols. Instead, two abstract visual images served as contextual cues). During the arbitrary relational test phase, participants were presented with novel stimulus combinations and the two contextual cues, in the absence of feedback. For instance, mutual entailment was tested, for the All-More group, with presentations of A < B, B < C, C < D, and D < E; for the All-Less group, with B > A, C > B, D > C, and E > D; and for the Less-More group, with B > A, C> B, C < D, and D < E. …

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