Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #209
CE Offered: BACB
Stimulus Classes, Transfer of Function, and Verbal Behavior
Sunday, May 24, 2020
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Level M2, Marquis Ballroom 3/4
Area: EAB/VRB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Robbie Hanson (Endicott College)
Discussant: Erik Arntzen (Oslo Metropolitan University)
CE Instructor: Robbie Hanson, Ph.D.

The current symposium is comprised of four talks covering issues related to stimulus control. The first two presentations describe procedures for establishing equivalence classes and assigning either a positive reinforcement or negative puishment function to one member of the class. Tests of transfer of function showed that adult participants' appetitive or avoidance responses, respectively, may be conditioned by other members of the classes. The last two studies describe the possible role of verbal behavior in the formation of equivalence classes, as well as frames of comparison. Both study suggest that participants may engage in some form of problem solving (verbal mediation) to pass derived relations tests.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Derived responses, Stimulus Control, Stimulus Equivalence, Verbal Behavior
Target Audience:

Basic researchers and clinical directors

Learning Objectives: 1. Participants will be able to define and be able to test for transfer and transformation of function 2. Participants will be able to describe the role of verbal behavior in the formation of equivalence classes 3. Participants will be able to design MTS procedures to establish frames of coordination and comparison

Transfer of Avoidance in Equivalence Classes Using Loss of Points as Aversive Stimulus

Lucas Gandarela (Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil), Leandro Boldrin (Universidade de Sao Paulo), PAULA DEBERT (Universidade de Sao Paulo)

The present study evaluated whether transfer of the avoidance response in equivalence classes is produced using the loss of points as the aversive stimulus. In the first phase of the experiment, 11 participants established two equivalence classes with four visual abstract stimuli each (Class 1: A1, B1, C1, D1; Class 2: A2, B2, C2, D2). In the second phase of the experiment, only one visual stimulus (B1) was paired with point loss. An avoidance response to B1 was then established. In the third phase of the experiment, the other stimuli were presented in a transfer of avoidance test. An avoidance response was established for all 11 participants, and the transfer of avoidance occurred for 10 of them. These results indicate that point loss can function as an effective aversive stimulus to maintain an avoidance response and produce transfer of the avoidance function in equivalence classes. The use of point loss may be a valuable tool in human operant research to substitute for other aversive stimuli with undesirable side effects.

Establishing Derived Reinforcers via Equivalence-Based Instruction
LESLEY A. SHAWLER (Kennedy Krieger Institute Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Karina Zhelezoglo (California State University, Sacramento), Shannon Luoma (California State University, Sacramento), Caio F. Miguel (California State University, Sacramento)
Abstract: Previous research has successfully established conditioned reinforcers using procedures such as stimulus pairing and the manipulation of motivating operations. Although not well explored, equivalence-based instruction (EBI) may be a viable method to establish conditioned reinforcers. The current study attempted to create novel reinforcers using EBI and stimulus conditioning with six typically developing adults and two children. Across two experiments, we established equivalence classes with a conditioned reinforcer via matching-to-sample training. During transfer of function tests, a majority of adult participants selected the derived reinforcer most often when presented with arbitrary stimuli. We then expanded the class using match-to-sample training and tested for transfer of function to evaluate reinforcer effects and nodal distance. Five adult participants selected the arbitrary stimulus that was in the equivalence class with the reinforcer when presented in a concurrent operant arrangement. We also used similar procedures with children. However, despite forming equivalence classes, both failed to select the derived reinforcer during transfer of function tests. Some possible barriers to the children’s’ success as well as general implications will be discussed.
Effects of a Rhyming Distractor on Trained and Untrained Stimulus Relations in a Delayed Match-to-Sample Task
ELIZABETH AUGSPURGER (The Chicago School for Professional Psychology), Yors A. Garcia (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology), Julie A. Ackerlund Brandt (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology ), Amanda Mahoney (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology )
Abstract: Six adults learned baseline equivalence relations and were subsequently tested on directly trained, symmetrical, and equivalence relations in a computer-based match-to-sample with 6-s delay preparation. In Condition A participants were told to talk aloud during the delay, in Condition B, the distractor condition, participants were presented with a word and told to type rhyming words across the entire delay, and in Condition C participants were not presented with a distractor and were not required to talk aloud during the delay. Participants were exposed to condition order CABA or BACB. In both sequences, the test condition with the distractor produced lower accuracy on directly trained, symmetry, and equivalence relations. During the distractor-absent conditions, participants tacted stimulus features and engaged in self-echoics and intraverbal naming while during the distractor-present condition these responses were disrupted. Average latency to selecting a comparison stimulus was longer during the distractor condition than during the distractor-absent condition and the control talk aloud condition. These results suggest the rhyming task suppressed accuracy on direct and derived relations and may have disrupted precurrent behavior. Future research is needed to evaluate disruptor task modality and the influence of training with delayed matching to sample.
Investigating the Effects of Verbal Behavior on Emergent Comparative Relations
SHANNON LUOMA (California State University, Sacramento), Adrienne O'Neil (California State University, Sacramento), Angel Gonzalez (California State University, Sacramento), Nigel Richardson (California State University, Sacramento), Caio F. Miguel (California State University, Sacramento)
Abstract: This study investigated the use of verbal behavior in the formation of comparative relations. We used a talk-aloud procedure to assess emission of tacts and/or intraverbals during matching-to-sample tasks using a nonconcurrent multiple baseline design. During multiple exemplar training (MET), participants learned to select the smallest or biggest comparison in the presence of abstract samples. Next, participants learned to select arbitrary comparisons in the presence of both contextual cues, to establish a size ranking among comparisons. To assess participants’ verbal behavior during the mutual and combinatorial entailment tests, they were instructed to talk out loud. Results replicate our previous data suggesting that MET alone does not seem sufficient to establish comparative relations, and that college students may need to engage in problem solving strategies to pass emergent relations tests. Additional participants will be exposed to the procedure to assess for the generality of these findings.



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