Association for Behavior Analysis International

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Empirically Based Analysis of the Traditional Definitions of Conditional Discrimination, Equivalence Classes, and Contextual Control

Paula Debert (University of Sao Paulo)

Invited Paper



Biography:Dr. Paula Debert is a professor of Psychology at Universidade de São Paulo (USP) - Brazil. She is the vice-coordinator of Experimental Psychology Graduate Program in the university and the coordinator of Psychology Undergraduate Program in the Psychology Institute at Universidade de São Paulo. She is a researcher at the Brazilian National Institute of Science and Technology on Behavior, Cognition and Teaching (INCT-ECCE) and a member of the Board of Editors of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Dr. Debert's research focuses on the study of alternative procedures to generate symbolic emergent behaviors.


Abstract: This presentation proposes an empirically based revision of the traditional definitions of conditional discrimination, equivalence classes, and contextual control. Some experiments that employed alternative procedures to matching-to-sample (MTS) will be described and analyzed. Results from these experiments suggested the establishment of behaviors similar to those produced with the MTS procedure. The first experiment to be described indicated that the go/no-go procedure with compound stimuli could generate emergent control by stimulus combinations not presented in training. The second experiment revealed that simple discrimination procedures could generate emergent stimuli substitutability. The final experiment to be described shows that the go/no-go procedure with compound stimuli established what would be called equivalence classes comprising stimuli with multiple class membership without combining them into a single large class. The manner by which stimuli were presented in these experiments does not allow inferring supposed discriminative, conditional, and contextual functions that are specified in the traditional definitions. In order to account for the performances observed in the studies described, it is proposed that the definitions of conditional discrimination, equivalence classes and contextual control specify, respectively, performances that involve stimuli recombination, stimuli substitutability, and stimuli sharing by different equivalence classes without merging them into one. These definitions will allow the use of a wider range of procedures that may be useful in developing new teaching technologies to reach diverse populations and contexts that require procedures alternative to the traditional matching-to-sample.


Modifed by Eddie Soh