Association for Behavior Analysis International

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50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #400
CE Offered: BACB
Conceptual and Experimental Topics in the Formation of Stimulus Equivalence
Monday, May 27, 2024
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 204 AB
Area: EAB/VRB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Erik Arntzen (Oslo Metropolitan University)
Discussant: Russell W. Maguire (Simmons University)
CE Instructor: Erik Arntzen, Ph.D.

The first paper by ERIK ARNTZEN and Ruta Ezerinyte presents an experiment comparing performance in sorting and matching-to-sample (MTS) tests. In this experiment, untrained stimuli are presented in the sorting and MTS tests, respectively. The main findings were that participants sorted the novel stimuli in a separate class. The second paper by MANISH VAIDYA includes a review of behavioral and non-behavioral research on the notions of class-conflict and class-cohesion, which can be used in the interpretation of several cognitive phenomena in non-mentalistic terms. The third paper by LANNY FIELDS discusses four parameters that characterize the structure of an equivalence class with emphasis on the fourth parameter, the distribution of singles. The fourth paper by Álvaro Silva and GERSON YUKIO TOMANARI presents an experiment showing the emergence of various types of relationships (visual-visual, auditory-visual, auditory-auditory) by using compound stimuli with auditory and visual elements. Findings show that participants demonstrated varying degrees of emergence of visual-visual stimuli.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): conditional discrimination, emergent relations, stimulus Equivalence
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) explain that storting performance could be a Measure of the maintenance of Equivalence classes (2) describe the 4 parameters that characterize Equivalence classes (3) discuss the notions of class-conflict and class-cohesion
Sorting of Untrained Stimuli: Grouping in Existing or New Classes
ERIK ARNTZEN (Oslo Metropolitan University), Ruta Ezerinyte (Oslo Metropolitan University)
Abstract: The aim of the present experiment was to explore how participants sorted stimuli that were not included in the establishment of conditional discriminations. The experiment used a linear series training structure training baseline conditional discriminations in 20 participants, college students until they reached a mastery criterion of a minimum of 90% correct responses. The experiment employed 20 abstract shapes, 16 (original stimuli) for the baseline training and 4 more (novel stimuli) in different tests. The baseline training included training of 12 conditional discriminations with the original 16 stimuli. Following the baseline training, half of the participants were exposed to a sequence of Sorting (16 + 4), MTS (16), Sorting (16 + 4), and MTS (16 + 4) and the other half of the participants were exposed to a sequence of MTS (16), Sorting (16 + 4), MTS (16 + 4), and Sorting (16 + 4). The main findings were that 4 of 10 participants sorted the stimuli in experimenter-defined classes and the untrained stimuli as a separate class after the MTS training (see Table 1 with 10 participants). This finding also correlated with the participants who formed equivalence classes.

Conflict and Cohesion: Interpreting ‘Cognitive Phenomena’ as Stimulus Control


The literature of experimental psychology is replete with assays designed to measure performance interpretable in terms of cognitive mechanisms. The semantic priming and the N400 effect, for example, are interpreted in terms of the target and prime stimuli’s membership in natural-language semantic networks. Sidman’s (1994, 2000) formulation of stimulus equivalence has been shown to provide a naturalistic interpretation of linguistic phenomena. This address will introduce the notion of class-conflict and class-cohesion as organizing principles that facilitate interpretation of a variety of cognitive phenomena in non-mentalistic terms. Cohesion refers to instances of facilitation of a categorization response when the stimuli belong to the same class and conflict refers to instances of retardation of that response when the stimuli belong to different classes. This address will review 1) data from several studies conducted in our lab and 2) review other behavioral and non-behavioral research to critically evaluate the utility of class-cohesion and class-conflict as organizing principles for a naturalistic interpretation of cognitive phenomena.


Distribution of Singles, Nodal Density, and the Structure of Equivalence Classes

LANNY FIELDS (Queens College, City University of New York)

The structure of any equivalence class is defined by four parameters (a) number of class members, (b) the number of nodes in a class, (c) training directionality, and (d) the distribution of singles attached by training to a node. To date, many studies have shown that variation in the values of the first three parameters influences the likelihood of class formation and/or the relatedness of stimuli in a class. To date, the effects of the fourth, the distribution of singles, on equivalence-based performances have received minimal attention. The only exception is Nedelcu, Fields, and Arntzen (2015). This presentation will consider the fourth parameter in detail, review the findings presented by Nedelcu, et al (2015), indicate how some other published studies might also reflect the effects of density of singles on class formation, suggest how singles density can account for the enhancement of class formation by meaningful stimuli, and finally, suggest some new studies that might show additional effects of density of singles on equivalence class formation.


Conditional Discrimination Training With Compound Stimuli and the Emergence of New Verbal and Non-Verbal Repertoires

Alvaro Silva (University of Sao Paulo), GERSON YUKIO TOMANARI (Universidade de Sao Paulo)

This study focuses on the significance of identifying conditions that facilitate the development of new abilities through conditional discrimination training. The use of prompts to establish conditional relationships between arbitrary stimuli has proven effective; however, there is a need for a more comprehensive demonstration of the control prompts exert, whether in simple or conditional contexts. In addition, the study explores how training with compound stimuli containing both auditory and visual elements can lead to the emergence of various types of relationships (visual-visual, auditory-visual, auditory-auditory), including verbal skills. The study involved four children/adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and utilized images of painters, their names, paintings, and accompanying colors as prompts. Findings indicated that, initially, prompts had a stronger impact on simple discriminative control than on conditional control. Participants demonstrated varying degrees of relation between the paintings and their respective artists. Additionally, exposure to artists' names alongside their works during training led to the emergence of new behaviors, such as naming the artists when shown their pictures and pointing to the pictures when shown their names, even without direct training for these responses.




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