Response Latencies to Multipale Derived Stimulus Relations: Testing Two Predictions of Relational Frame Theory

By O'Hora, Denis; Roche, Bryan et al. | The Psychological Record, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Response Latencies to Multipale Derived Stimulus Relations: Testing Two Predictions of Relational Frame Theory


O'Hora, Denis, Roche, Bryan, Barnes-Holmes, Dermot, Smeets, Paul M., The Psychological Record


In Experiment 1, 3 college students were exposed to relational pretraining to establish the contextual functions of Same, Opposite, More Than, and Less Than in four arbitrary stimuli. Subjects were then trained on the matching-to-sample tasks Al-B1 and Y1-N1, in the presence of the More-Than contextual cue, Al-82 and Y1 -N2 in the presence of the Less-Than contextual cue, C1-D1 and E1-D2 in the presence of the Same cue, and C1-D2 and El-D1 in the presence of the Opposite cue. Test trials were subsequently administered to probe for the mutually entailed relations; Less-Than/B1-A1, Less-Than/N1 -Y1, More-Than/B2-Al, More-Than/N2-Y1, Same/D1-C1, Same/D2-El, Opposite/D2-C1, and Opposite/D1-El. Response latencies to probes for derived Same/Opposite relations were significantly lower than those for derived More Than/Less Than relations. Experiment 2 exposed 4 subjects to training across each of the four relations and used a novel stimulus set to test for reduced response latencies to the derived relations. Response latencies to More-Than/Less-Than probes reduced significantly across the original to the novel stimulus set, whereas latencies to Same/Opposite probes were low across both stimulus sets.

When human subjects are trained on a series of conditional discriminations, the stimuli involved may control responding in ways that are not readily predicted using traditional behavioral principles. For example, if choosing the arbitrary stimuli, 81 and C1, is reinforced on separate trials, given a further stimulus, Al, then, the presentation of B1 or C1 may reliably occasion the choosing of Al (symmetry) without reinforcement. Furthermore, the presentation of 81 may control choosing C1, and the presentation of C1 may control choosing B1 (combined symmetry and transitivity), again without reinforcement. These effects are collectively referred to as stimulus equivalence and the stimuli Al, B1, and C1 are said to participate in an equivalence relation (Barnes, 1994; Barnes & Holmes, 1991; Hayes, 1991; Sidman, 1971,1990).

The possibility that human subjects can respond in accordance with relations other than equivalence was examined in a study by Steele and Hayes (1991). Subjects were trained to relate Same stimuli (e.g., a large line with a large line) in the presence of one contextual cue, Opposite stimuli (e.g., a large line with a small line) in the presence of a second contextual cue, and Different stimuli (e.g., a circle with a cross) in the presence of a third contextual cue. Subsequently, subjects were trained in an extensive network of conditional discriminations, with each discrimination being made in the presence of one of the three contextual cues. To understand the procedures involved in this complex experiment, consider the following six training trials; Same/A1/B1-B2-B3, Same/A1/C1-C2-C3, Opposite/A1/B1-B2-B3, Opposite/A1/C1-C2-C3, Different/A1/B1-B2, Different/A1/C1-C2, where A1 represents the sample, and the B and C stimuli represent the comparisons. Choosing B1 and C1 was always reinforced in the presence of the Same stimulus, choosing the B3 and C3 stimuli was always reinforced in the presence of the Opposite stimulus, and choosing the B2 and C2 stimuli was always reinforced in the presence of the Different stimulus.

Now consider the following three test trials; Same/B1/C1-C2-C3, Same/B3/C1-C2-C3, Different/C1/B1-B2-N3. Subjects chose C1, C3, and B2, respectively on these tasks, indicating that the relations of Same, Opposite, and Different had been derived. More specifically, if B1 and C1 are the Same as A1, then B1 and C1 are the Same, and if B3 and C3 are Opposite to A1 then B3 and C3 are the Same. Finally, if B2 is Different from A1, and C1 is the Same as A1, then B2 is also Different from C1. Several further experimental studies have demonstrated that human subjects can be trained to respond to a variety of derived stimulus relations, including; Same and Opposite (Dymond & Barnes, 1996; Roche & Barnes, 1996, 1997; Roche, Barnes-Holmes, Smeets, Barnes-Holmes, & McGeady, 2000), Different (Roche & Barnes, 1996), and More-Than and Less-Than (Dymond & Barnes, 1995; see also Barnes-Holmes, Barnes-Holmes, & Cullinan, 2001). …

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