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INCREASING THE PROBABILITY OF STIMULUS EQUIVALENCE WITH ADULTS WITH MILD MENTAL RETARDATION RICHARD R. SAUNDERS and JULIE E. MCENTEE
University of Kansas
In Experiment 1, 6 adults with mild mental retardation were taught 3 overlapping conditional discriminations in a linear series structure, establishing the possibility of the emergence of 2 stimulus equivalence classes of 4 stimuli per class. Training employed balanced trial types in which the discriminative stimuli were presented in fixed pairs across conditional discriminations (e.g., 81 and 82, C1 and C2) . No participant .showed the emergence of equivalence classes in initial testing ; 1 participant showed the establishment of classes with repeated testing , including tests for symmetry alone. In Experiment 2, 6 additional adults with mild mental retardation were similarly trained , with one methodological modification : Prior to testing, each comparison stimulus (e.g. , 81) was presented in some trials with every stimulus from the opposing class (i .e., A2, 82, C2, and D2). With this modification, 4 of 6 participants showed the establishment of equivalence classes during initial testing . The results support hypotheses about the essential role of simple discrimination acquisition in equivalence class establishment.
A stimulus equivalence class may be defined as a set of stimuli that are interchangeable or substitutable in certain contexts, such as in conditional discriminations (Spradlin, Cotter, & Baxley, 1973). One common method of presenting conditional discriminations is matching-tosample (MTS) training with reinforcement contingencies (Green & Saunders, 1998). A now common outcome is that training with only a small number of interrelated MTS conditional discriminations results in emergence of numerous untrained conditional discriminations (e.g., R. R. Saunders, Wachter, & Spradlin, 1988). In mapping how conditional discriminations might be interrelated to produce this effect, Fields and
Development of this paper was supported in part by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grants HD18955 and HD02528 to the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies, University of Kansas. Portions of this paper were presented at the 25th Meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis, Chicago, IL. Requests for reprints should be addressed to Richard R. Saunders, Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies, 1000 Sunnyside Ave. , 1052 Dole, Lawrence, KS 66045 . (E-mail: rrsaun @ku ..edu).
2000b. Fields. .. 1986. Node. however.g. & Sanchez. Saunders and Green fixed the number of discriminations unrequired by training. but essential in tests. Fields. but these discriminations are essential for solving the conditional discriminations that comprise the tests for equivalence. Landon-Jimenez. Saunders and Green (1999) postulated that the failure to produce equivalence class establishment with the LS structure could be caused by a difference in the simple discriminations required during training versus testing. 1996. Lazar. (c) the distribution of non nodal stimuli among nodal stimuli. 1991. will be Stimulus A 1 as sample and the Stimuli D1 and D2 as comparison stimuli. given training leading to two potential stimulus classes of four stimuli each (i. Arntzen & Holth. train AB. R. J.e. R. Spradlin . The parameters were (a) number of stimuli per class. comparison stimuli in MTS problems) . & Saunders. In LS training . Newman. (b) number of nodes. Michael & Bernstein . Williams. 1995. adolescents and adults with mental retardation were trained with minimal instructions in either sampleas-node (SaN) or comparison-as-node (CaN) structures leading potentially to 2 four. One of the trial types that tests for the property of transitivity. Adams. refers to a stimulus that participates in two or more conditional discriminations. Saunders. 1995. Directionality of training refers to whether the nodes serve as conditional stimuli (i. K. Holth & Arntzen. Across several early experiments.g.. In training two Classes of four stimuli . Other investigators have concurred generally with this analysis. Saunders and Green's analysis with structures other than LS. & Verhave. negative outcomes on tests for stimulus equivalence classes are likely (see Mcllvane & Dube..e. Training in which nodal stimuli serve as sample stimuli in some MTS conditional discriminations and as comparison stimuli in others has been referred to as a linear series (LS) training structure (K. at 12. 1986). Buffington . Saunders. 1998.424 SAUNDERS AND MCENTEE Verhave (1987) described four parameters relevant to the organization of equivalence classes. R. for example. R. stimulus naming). 1994. 1997. Sidman. & Spradlin . R. 1984. Annett & Leslie. Research with participants with mental retardation has produced data consistent with R. 1987. . 2000. & Adams. 1992). or both during training . samples in MTS problems). Saunders. CD) there will have been no training trial containing an A stimulus and a D stimulus. discriminative stimuli (i. concluding that if each stimulus in the training set is not discriminated from the remaining stimuli .or five-member equivalence classes (Drake & Saunders. thus providing for their interrelation or overlap. J. Spradlin & Saunders. the data suggest that these other variables are not always at work. perhaps the key parameter. Although discriminations among stimuli in an experiment may arise as a function of variables other than the formal elements of the training (e. The LS structure has been used frequently in experiments on stimulus equivalence with normal children and adults with mixed results (e. 1993. BC. some of the possible simple discriminations among stimuli are not required for problem solution . 1993). 1992. .e. Saunders et aI. For example.. and (d) directionality of training. Davis-Lang .
Sessions were presented using a Macintosh LCIII® computer with an ArtMedia® 14 in . SaN structures are hypothesized to share the same problem as LS. R. Spradlin & Saunders.INCREASING PROBABILITY OF EQUIVALENCE 425 cited in K. More recently. R. Four of 5 CaN-trained preschool children showed equivalence class establishment while only 2 of 6 SaNtrained children had similar test performances. and Spradlin (1999) reported similar results with young children with mental ages presumed to be similar to the mental ages of the participants with mild mental retardation. We hypothesized that if R. Across these studies. et al. . & Spradlin . Apparatus Participants sat at a desk in an office cubicle facing a computer monitor. J. Each participated at times that did not interfere with important daily activities. results with a LS structure should lead to results more similar to previous findings with SaN structures than findings with CaN structures.8). R. Drake. . 1986). Further. 1993. R. with respect to unrequired discriminations (R. equivalence classes were established in only 1 of 7 participants trained with SaN procedures. In Experiment 1.. 1988. Saunders et aI. That is. Kirby. R. but in 14 of 15 participants trained with CaN procedures. 1999). 1993. Saunders. Saunders. R. Experiment 1 Method Participants All participants in this study were consumers of services in state. then equivalence class establishment should be more probable than when such discriminations are not enabled. J. R. 1988. A software program was used to program stimulus display sequences and response consequences. R. Saunders and Green's (1999) analysis is accurate. Saunders et aI. Saunders & Green . In contrast.and community-operated agencies. scant research on the establishment of classes with the LS structure has been conducted with participants with mental retardation . if training in the LS structure were conducted such that discrimination of each stimulus from every other stimulus was more likely during training . 6 adults with mild mental retardation (based on results of most recent formal testing) served as participants. K. Wachter. To date. Ages ranged from 23-48 years across the 3 male and 3 female participants. Two experiments were designed to test these hypotheses. The monitor had a touchscreen operating with Troll Touch® Software (Version 1. Trinitron® CRT (Model TC1564). CaN requires all test-essential discriminations. Saunders. Saunders. we hypothesized that modifications to typical train ing methods with the LS structure might lead to results more similar to prior results with CaN structures. Each participated under informed consent procedures required by the human rights committees of the respective agencies and of the University of Kansas.8.
. Schematic of the training structure and stimuli employed.~ Ill! II J Figure 1.. The training and testing in this experiment was conducted with "balanced" trial types (Green & Saunders. On trials with consequences. below and on either side of the sample. 1998. ~ I" ~ I II /I .If. Training continued first with all three conditional discriminations mixed in the same sessions with trial-by-trial feedback.. r----:l~. an experimenter-designated correct response produced an auditory jingle from the computer. Testing began when the participant's performance on all the discriminations could be maintained without feedback. temporary removal of all stimuli (approximately 2 s). To establish the conditional discriminations depicted. Each correct response equaled 1 cent. Saunders & Green. With balanced . and presentation of the next sample. R. sessions with feedback reduced to 75% of the trials.001 I I I I !. incorrect responses produced a "raspberry" sounding buzz...426 SAUNDERS AND MCENTEE The experimental stimuli are shown in the training structure schematic depicted in Figure 1. in cash.. Procedures Arbitrary MTS training. sessions of 32 trials each. a touch to the sample resulted in the concurrent display of two-choice stimuli. as shown in Figure 1. . A touch to either comparison resulted in the programmed consequence(s). Training began with the first conditional discrimination (AB) in . The participants were paid at the end of each session. training on BC commenced . a sample stimulus appeared in the middle of the screen to begin a trial. The horizontal arrows connected with dashed lines indicate tests for transitivity and symmetric transitivity and are labeled as equivalence tests.. The vertical arrows on dashed lines indicate symmetry tests.. When the participant's performance met criterion on AB. and then in sessions without trial-by-trial feedback. Solid arrows indicate trained relations. Training and testing occurred in a linear-series structure leading potentially to two classes of four stimuli each. 1999). for each experimenter-designated correct response.. followed by training on CD. R.
This arrangement in two-choice MTS training also has been referred to as the "pairedcomparison" procedure (Spradlin & Saunders. Participants completed up to four sessions per day. Test sessions contained six test trials unsystematically interspersed among 26 training trials. the relations CA. and P3 passed the symmetry tests. Participant P4 could be tested only once and therein showed no evidence of equivalence class establishment. comparison stimulus B 1. P2. the equivalence test was again administered twice. Results The participants in Experiment 1 required between 7 and 63 training sessions (median = 23) to meet the criterion for testing for equivalence classes.e. AD) and direct tests for symmetric transitivity or equivalence (i. He and P1 . throughout the experiment. If testing failed to produce criterion-level performances. the relations AC. training trial accuracy fell below 90%. As shown in Figure 2. training sessions without trial -by-trial feedback were re-presented until accuracy again met criterion . DB. Further. If. was always presented with comparison stimulus B2 (never with C2 or 02). Each was retested for equivalence. the equivalence test was administered twice. Tests for the properties of equivalence. DC). during any test session of either type. Symmetry test sessions consisted of six test trials and two symmetry test sessions constituted a symmetry test. DA) . If symmetry testing demonstrated that the trained conditional relations had the property of symmetry. Test trials never occurred consecutively. The criterion for concluding that symmetry was demonstrated was 10 of 12 experimenter-designated correct responses. P2 and P3 received two tests and neither met the .INCREASING PROBABILITY OF EQUIVALENCE 427 trial types. The performance criterion for each phase of this training was 100% correct for one session or two consecutive sessions at or above 90% correct. 1986). two test sessions with tests for the property of symmetry were conducted (BA. for example. Participant P4 received only one initial equivalence test prior to symmetry testing because he informed the experimenters of a change in his residence only 1 day prior to leaving. CB.." Following training.e.. days in which test sessions were scheduled always began with a training session (without feedback) to ensure that the trained performances were at criterion prior to testing . depending on their extraexperimental activity schedules. BD. Equivalence class establishment was judged to have occurred if each test administration produced at least 10 experimenterdesignated correct responses in the 12 test trials. Responses on training trials and test trials produced no programmed consequences during test sessions. The trial types in the test sessions consisted of tests for transitivity only (i. no participant met the criterion for equivalence class establishment in the first two equivalence tests (EQ1 and EQ2) . 12 test trials spread across two test sessions constituted a complete test that will be referred to as an "equivalence test. As these relations must be tested for both potential classes.
Participant P1. she was given a fifth test in which she had 11 of 12 correct responses. P1 showed equivalence class establishment with repeated testing. had the largest difference between training and test trial latencies. Figure 3 shows the median response latencies to comparison stimuli for training trials and test trials in the first equivalence test (two sessions) for each participant in Experiment 1. Thus.428 SAUNDERS AND MCENTEE U ~ 12 10 PI U 8 8 8 ~ ~ 12 10 P4 8 6 4 o 2 12 8 ~ ~ 12 10 P2 P5 8 6 2 i!: o o 12 ~ 10 P3 U 8 8 6 4 8 ~ 12 10 P6 8 2 o Figure 2. criterion of class establishment. and P6 left the facility unexpectedly before additional testing could be conducted. . Results of Experiment 1 for all participants on tests for equivalence (black columns) and tests for symmetry (white columns). Participant P5 did not pass the symmetry test and was therefore not retested for equivalence. All had longer latencies or slower response speeds on test trials than training trials. Because P1 's fourth equivalence test (EQ4) produced 10 of 12 correct responses. if applicable. who ultimately demonstrated equivalence class establishment.
B1 with C2) was presented 1 or 2 times with each respective sample stimulus (e. B1 and B2 as comparisons) (see Kennedy._------'-' 6 4 C/l • .-< § "'0 ::s (]. Participants and Apparatus For Experiment 2. B1 and D2 as comparisons or A1 as sample. The same apparatus and stimuli were employed with these participants.g. for prior use of unpaired comparisons).g. Testing was conducted as described for Experiment 1: two equivalence tests. 6 new participants were recruited: 4 males and 2 females with mild mental retardation ranging in age from 18-47 years. 1991.> (]. 1 0 .g. The requirement for testing was one session at 100% correct or two consecutive sessions at >90% correct in sessions with no trial-by-trial feedback for responses.. A1 as sample. Adams. A minimum of two sessions at >90% correct without feedback and with unpaired comparisons was required to commence equivalence testing. with A1 as sample. 1990.. a symmetry test if needed. and Fields. ---.) 2 0 PI P2 P3 Experiment 2 Method P4 P5 P6 Figure 3. A 1) within each session... Median latencies of responses to comparison stimuli for training trials and test trials in the first two equivalence tests for each participant in Experiment 1. When that criterion was met. Each version of unpaired comparisons (e. Verhave. B1 and A2 as comparisons) were intermixed with trials with paired comparisons (e. and two equivalence tests if symmetry was . each participant was trained in additional sessions wherein trials with unpaired comparisons (e.INCREASING PROBABILITY OF EQUIVALENCE 429 10 CI) "'0 0 <.. Procedures The training procedures in Experiment 2 were the same as in Experiment 1 until the participants met the Experiment 1 criterion for equivalence testing. Position of the correct comparison was counterbalanced across trials.) 8 ~ I ' .. & Newman. Traini~g Trials - Test Trials ---.g._ .
J <.J & <.J "til 8 10 PIO 6 4 2 0 ~ <... and was replaced with an additional participant.. .J v. Results Exposure to the unpaired comparisons did not significantly disrupt responding in 5 participants prior to testing.J ~ <.s\ & <. Figure 4 shows that P7 and P8 had 12 of 12 correct responses in each of the first two equivalence tests. two to five sessions with unpaired comparisons were required to meet the criterion for testing (median = 2).. test trials were intermixed with training trials with paired and unpaired comparisons. In Experiment 2 equivalence tests.J cl' 10 8 1) P9 ~ 0 u ~ 12 10 8 PI2 6 4 2 0 f- '" ~ ~ 0 ~ <...J <... Participant P9 was correct 10 of 12 and 11 of 12 times across these tests and P10 scored 10 out of 12 in each test.& ~..430 SAUNDERS AND MCENTEE passed.t' & <.J v.... ~ u 4 ~ 2 0 ~ ~ <.. Results of Experiment 2 for all participants on tests for equivalence (black columns) and tests for symmetry (white columns) ..J & <. Thus..J & <. if applicable..J ~ <. but all test trials contained paired comparisons.. however. With the exception of the replaced participant.J & <.J cl' Figure 4. the test trial types in Experiment 2 were identical to those used in Experiment 1. One participant could not maintain >90% correct responding with unpaired comparisons... ~ 1) ~ 0 u ~ ~ u f~ "til "til "til 10 8 6 P7 ~ 0 u -.¢> <o.t' ~.J 10 8 6 P8 u ~ 0 ~ 12 10 8 PII 4 ~ ~ 4 2 0 2 0 ~ <. 0 ~ ~ ~ ~ 0 u u ·c f- -..& <o. The eventual 6 participants in Experiment 2 required 10 to 23 training sessions (median = 15) to meet the criteria for testing. Paricipants P11 and P12 did 1) u 0.
. who met the criterion for equivalence class establishment but not errorlessly. Holth & Arntzen. R. 1997. the participants in Experiment 2 produced .. Their conclusions were predicated on the assumption that training in these structures utilized paired comparisons. the latency differences are large. All have longer latencies on test trials than on training trials. the differences are small. 1998. For P7 and P8.. 2000b. only after repeated testing.. as employed in Experiment 1. 10 (f) "0 8 6 4 I::::: 0 ~ u if) "0 . the participants in Experiment 1 produced overall results more comparable to previous results with SaN training structures than CaN training structures. § ~ ~ 2 0 P7 P8 P9 Discussion PI0 Pll P12 Figure 5. Also as hypothesized. Saunders and Green (1999) concluded that training in LS and SaN structures does not require certain simple discriminations that are essential for passing subsequent tests for equivalence. 2000). and each again failed to show class establishment in the third and fourth equivalence tests.. Median latencies of responses to comparison stimuli for training trials and test trials in the first two equivalence tests for each participant in Experiment 2. as seen with P1 (who ultimately passed) in Experiment 1. The present results are also similar to those reported across four studies reported by Arntzen and Holth. each subsequently passed the symmetry test.INCREASING PROBABILITY OF EQUIVALENCE 431 not meet the criterion for equivalence class establishment. As hypothesized. For P9 and P10. in which only 15 of 59 normal adult participants showed equivalence class establishment following LS training leading to three classes of three stimuli each (Arntzen & Holth. Only 1 of 6 participants had test results indicative of equivalence class establishment and then . R. Figure 5 shows the median response latencies to comparison stimuli for the participants in Experiment 2 in the first two equivalence tests. who were 100% correct on equivalence tests..
One possibility is that exposure to a few sessions of unpaired comparisons overtrains the conditional discriminations and such overtraining affects equivalence class establishment. the present data support a discrimination explanation. The latency data from the two experiments also parse the participants into three groups. P11 required but 11 sessions prior to testing in Experiment 2. 1988). however. Participants P7 and P8 showed little difference between training trial and test trial latencies. that acquisition of these discriminations alone is not sufficient for equivalence-indicative performances. but did not show class establishment despite repeated testing. R. which always was a training review session. with both medians near 2 s. with median differences of 6 to 7 s. 4 had initial test results indicative of equivalence class establishment. The lack of disparity between training and test trial latencies may reflect a high degree of discrimination among the stimuli. replicates findings by other researchers (Arntzen & Holth. These participants showed the largest disparity between training and test trial latencies. As a group. Similarly. and he likewise did not show equivalence class establishment. 1997. The remaining participants who did not show equivalence class establishment had . Participants P1. 2000a. Saunders. By the end of the fourth equivalence test (EQ4). Another possibility is that the participants in Experiment 2 differed from those in Experiment 1. showing longer latencies on test trials than training trials. Of 6 participants. 1996). P9. 2000.. Because sessions to criterion also has not been a reliable predictor of class establishment in prior research with people with mental retardation (e. Holth & Arntzen. but with some test trial errors. including exposure to the unpaired comparisons for 2 sessions. 2000b. Spencer & Chase..g.432 SAUNDERS AND MCENTEE overall results more similar to previous results with CaN training structures. the participants in Experiment 2 required fewer training sessions to meet the criterion for testing than did the Experiment 1 group. Presumably. however. acquiring these discriminations prior to testing led to the higher proportion of participants showing equivalence class formation. The latency data. et aI. If overtraining reliably produced equivalence class establishment. and P10 showed equivalence class establishment. The results from P11 and P12 demonstrate. perhaps along some dimension of competence with conditional discriminations. A tentative inference is that the unpaired comparison procedure used in Experiment 2 required acquisition of the simple discriminations not required by a paired comparison procedure. including the first session of each day. A reasonable question to ask of the results is whether variables other than presentations of comparison stimuli can account for the differences. we would expect to see it occur in the participants in both experiments who underwent symmetry testing and repeated equivalence testing. P3 required only seven training sessions in Experiment 1 to reach equivalence testing (six is the minimum possible). R. Wachter. they had received additional training trial exposure. However.
the performances on all one-node tests (two-thirds of the test trials. the incorrect comparison controls the correct i response.control arises from the structure employed in the present study: two potential LS classes of four stimuli established in two-choice MTS (Johnson & Sidman. We speculate. Thus. 1993). DA. This possibility prompts an analysis regarding the test performances of P7 and P8 versus P11 and P12. then (a) the sample/S+ control would act to prevent complete disruption of responding and (b) the substitution would disrupt sample/S.control was operational during the early training of P7 and P8. In future research. sample/S+ or sample/S. The quintessence of sample/S.control when the comparisons were paired. CA. the number of participants in each subgroup is too small for drawing any firm conclusions. It is unclear what this means. Carrigan and Sidman explained how consistent sample/S. Future research might include latency analysis. DA) . that the participant that was replaced in Experiment 2 may have experienced difficulty with the unpaired comparisons as a function of a history of sample/S. the substitution might go undetected because the stimulus control of responding was already established and was not reliant on the negative comparisons. to determine if this pattern will be replicated or whether it extends to results with other training structures. while leaving AD. one might employ the A stimuli as negative comparisons in BC training trials as the only substitutions made to unpair the comparisons. BD. For example. one might employ limited or selective substitution to tease out the relative contributions of control.control. AC. In that case.control refers to responses to the experimenter-designated correct comparison as a function of rejection of the incorrect comparison. A similar conclusion can be drawn for P11 and P12 in Experiment 2. Thus. if a combination of sample/S+ and sample/S. If responding during initial training were under exclusive sample/S+ control. the latency data and test results parse the participants into the same subgroups. BD. This failure to discriminate could explain the results of P11 and P12. Would this contribute to correct responses on CA and AC tests. DB) will be incorrect and performances on two-node tests will be correct (AD. The replacement of the incorrect comparison with a new incorrect comparison would likely disrupt established control by the former incorrect comparison. we infer that sample/S. Under sample/S.control during training was not the reason equivalence classes were established with only 1 participant. the planned-for discrimination between the correct comparison and the substituted incorrect comparison might not arise. and DB trials uninfluenced? . however. however.control sufficient to produce attention to and discrimination between the newly paired stimuli. 1992). The test performances observed in Experiment 1 do not reflect this pattern or overall percentage correct. In MTS training.control of responding can arise (Carrigan & Sidman. Indeed.INCREASING PROBABILITY OF EQUIVALENCE 433 median differences of about 2 s. Sample/S. Thus. the introduction of unpaired comparisons might have no effect. In contrast.control leads to 33% overall correct responding on tests in this structure.
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