Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Effects of Immediate Tests on the Long-Term Maintenance of Stimulus Equivalence Classes

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Effects of Immediate Tests on the Long-Term Maintenance of Stimulus Equivalence Classes

Article excerpt

Procedures used to study stimulus equivalence involve the establishment of sets of conditional discriminations and the assessment of stimulus equivalence within these stimulus classes. When establishing these stimulus classes in matching-to-sample (MTS) procedures, selecting specific discriminative stimuli referred to as comparisons in the presence of specific conditional stimuli known as samples in line with experimenter-defined four-term contingencies is reinforced. Stimulus equivalence classes are said to be established if performance have the properties of reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity. These properties are commonly assessed using MTS procedures similar to those used during conditional discrimination training, although no programmed consequences for responding is included in this test. Reflexivity refers to consistently selecting comparison stimuli that are identical to the samples. Symmetry refers to the class consistent selection of comparisons that previously appeared as samples when samples that previously appeared as comparisons are presented. Finally, transitivity involves the class consistent selection of comparisons in the presence of samples that have only been indirectly related to the comparison via one or more trained conditional discriminations. For example, if the conditional discriminations AB and BC are trained (where A, B, and C refer to different stimuli), transitivity is evident if participants select the C comparisons of the same class when the A stimuli are presented as samples (Sidman, 1994; Sidman & Tailby, 1982).

Stimulus equivalence has been suggested to be a viable behavioral approach to the study of language and symbolic behavior because both stimulus equivalence classes and language involve arbitrary relations among stimuli and generative performance (Malott, 2003; Place, 1995-1996; Wilkinson & Mcllvane, 2001). The acquisition of a given language category, such as a spoken word/written word/referent relationship, is normally considered to be a more or less permanent change in the behavioral repertoire of an individual. For stimulus equivalence to be a considered a plausible behavioral approach to language, stimuli involved in stimulus equivalence classes must then be shown to exert appropriate control over behavior over longer periods of time, such as weeks, months, or years. In experimental settings, however, the assessment of stimulus equivalence typically takes place only immediately after prerequisite conditional discriminations have been established.

Some studies have investigated the long-term maintenance of stimulus equivalence performance without further exposure to the reinforcement contingencies of the prerequisite conditional discriminations. These studies have investigated the retention of stimulus equivalence classes over days (Billinger & Norlander, 2011 ; Eilifsen & Arntzen, 2015; Fienup & Dixon, 2006), weeks (Arntzen & Hansen, 2011; Arntzen, Petursson, Sadeghi, & Eilifsen, 2015; Camargo & Haydu, 2015; Doughty, Brierley, Eways, & Kastner, 2014; Eilifsen & Arntzen, 2015; Fienup & Dixon, 2006; Rehfeldt & Dixon, 2005), and months (Arntzen, Halstadtro, Bjerke, Wittner, & Kristiansen, 2014; Rehfeldt & Hayes, 2000; Rehfeldt & Root, 2004). Although a majority of studies have at least one example of stimulus equivalence performance that is maintained over time, all the studies also included participants whose performance showed a decline of experimenter-defined correct stimulus control over time. These studies are, however, difficult to compare because they involve procedural differences that can potentially influence the maintenance of stimulus equivalence classes. Some studies included tasks in addition to stimulus equivalence tests in an MTS format involving stimuli used in the stimulus equivalence tests, both in temporal proximity of the initial training and testing and the retention tests. Tasks include primary generalization tests and card sorting tasks (Arntzen et al. …

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