Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Effects of Between-Classes Negative Relations Training on Equivalence Class Formation across Training Structures

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Effects of Between-Classes Negative Relations Training on Equivalence Class Formation across Training Structures

Article excerpt

The importance of the stimulus equivalence paradigm for the study of the symbolic processes associated with human behavior is widely recognized in the field of the experimental analysis of human behavior (e.g., D. Barnes-Holmes, Y. Barnes-Holmes, Smeets, Cullinan, & Leader, 2004; Billinger & Norlander, 2011; Sidman, 1994; Travis, Fields, & Arntzen, 2014). A typical stimulus equivalence study is characterized by the training of some conditional arbitrary relations between a set of stimuli and the testing for the emergence of other conditional relations that show the properties of reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity, as Sidman and Tailby (1982) initially specified.

Most research in this area employs the matching to sample (MTS) procedure, in which the selection of a comparison stimulus from a set of stimuli is conditional to the presence of a particular sample stimulus. In this preparation it is typically said that a relation is established between each sample stimulus and each comparison stimulus whose selection is reinforced in its presence and thus is called a 'positive,' 'sample-S+,' or 'select' relation. Likewise, the relation between each sample stimulus and the comparison stimulus whose choice is extinguished or punished in its presence is called a 'negative,' 'sample-S-,' or 'reject' relation (Carrigan & Sidman, 1992; Dixon & Dixon, 1978; Johnson & Sidman, 1993; Mcllvane, 2013; Mcllvane, Withstandley, & Stoddard 1984b; Stromer & Osborne, 1982).

In studies where the MTS procedure is employed to teach the conditional relations serving as the baseline for the emergence of equivalence relations, positive relations are trained between those stimuli pre-experimentally defined as belonging to the same class (within-class relations), while negative relations are trained between those stimuli pre-experimentally defined as belonging to alternative classes (between-class relations). We call this the standard MTS procedure. For example, in a typical three-choice trial with the standard MTS procedure like A1-B1/B2, B3 (where each alphanumeric corresponds to sample-S+/S- and S stimuli in that respective order), a positive relation is established between stimuli A1 and B1, which eventually will belong to the same class. Simultaneously, in this trial type a negative relation can be established between the A1 and B2 stimulus. In other trial types, the same B2 stimulus will be a positive comparison for sample A2, so that the A1 and B2 stimuli will eventually belong to alternative classes. The same will happen between A1 and B3. This standard MTS procedure has a high probability to yield the formation of equivalence relations in children (e.g., Smeets, Barnes-Holmes, & Cullinan, 2000), human adults (e.g., Clayton & Hayes, 2004; Kinloch, Anderson, & Foster, 2013), and humans with intellectual disabilities (e.g., Carr, Wilkinson, Blackman, & Mcllvane, 2000; O'Donnell & Saunders, 2003).

Carrigan and Sidman (1992) proposed that equivalence classes could be formed in the context of the standard MTS procedure by the exclusive training of positive relations without the training of any negative relations. They proposed a test that would involve the use of a modified MTS procedure that would establish exclusively positive within-class relations by the training of negative relations that involved many stimuli that did not belong to any class and between-class negative relations in only one trial for each sample in a block of training trials. Although this procedure has not been tested, some studies have shown that equivalence classes have formed after the establishment of high positive within-class and high negative between-class baseline relations (Arantes & de Rose, 2015; Carr, Wilkinson, Blackman, & Mcllvane, 2000; de Rose, Hidalgo, & Vasconcellos, 2013; Grisante, de Rose, & Mcllvane, 2014; Kato, de Rose, & Faleiros, 2008, Tomonaga, 1993). …

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