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Stimulus equivalence and arbitrarily applicable relational responding.

  • D Steele
  • S C Hayes
Publication Date
Nov 01, 1991


Subjects' responses to nonarbitrary stimulus relations of sameness, oppositeness, or difference were brought under contextual control. In the presence of the SAME context, selecting the same comparison as the sample was reinforced. In the presence of the OPPOSITE context, selecting a comparison as far from the sample as possible on the physical dimension defined by the set of comparisons was reinforced. Given the DIFFERENT context, selecting any comparison other than the sample was reinforced. Subjects were then exposed to arbitrary matching-to-sample training in the presence of these same contextual cues. Some subjects received training using the SAME and OPPOSITE contexts, others received SAME and DIFFERENT, and others received SAME, OPPOSITE, and DIFFERENT. The stimulus networks established allowed testing for a wide variety of derived relations. In two experiments it was shown that derived performances were consistent with relational responding brought to bear by the contextual cues. In contexts relevant to the relation of sameness, stimulus equivalence emerged. Other kinds of relational networks emerged in the other contexts. Arbitrarily applicable relational responding may give rise to a very wide variety of derived stimulus relations. The kinds of performances seen in stimulus equivalence do not appear to be unique.

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