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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Symposium #293
Int'l Symposium - Behaviour Analysis and the Neuroscience of Language and Cognition: Semantic Priming and Derived Stimulus Relations
Monday, May 30, 2005
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Boulevard C (2nd floor)
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Simon Dymond (APU, Cambridge, UK)
Discussant: William J. McIlvane (University of Massachusetts Medical School)
Abstract: A number of behavioral researchers have argued that derived equivalence relations provide the basis for semantic or symbolic meaning in natural language. If this view is correct, it follows that equivalence relations should possess properties that are typically associated with semantic relations. This symposium will describe an ongoing programme of collaborative research designed to investigate cognitive phenomena such as semantic priming from a behavior-analytic perspective. The first paper will describe a series of experiments on semantic priming and derived stimulus relations involving arbitrary pseudowords. Behavioural measures (response latencies and errors) and event-related potentials (ERPs) measures of semantic priming were employed. The second paper incorporated a series of methodological controls and employed a larger derived relational network, while the third paper investigated cross-modal semantic priming effects and derived stimulus relations. Taken together, the three papers provide supportive evidence for a preliminary behavior-analytic account of semantic networks by fusing cognitive methodology and ERPs measures with derived stimulus relations.
Equivalence Relations and Semantic Priming: A Preliminary Behavior-Analytic Model of Semantic Networks
SEAN COMMINS (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Dermot Barnes-Holmes (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Carmel Staunton (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Robert Whelan (APU, Cambridge, UK), Yvonne Barnes-Holmes (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Derek Walsh (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Paul M. Smeets (Leiden University), Simon Dymond (APU, Cambridge, UK)
Abstract: The present study sought to test a preliminary behaviour-analytic model of semantic networks by using priming and derived equivalence relations. In Experiment 1, participants were trained and tested in two four-member equivalence relations using word-like nonsense words (participants were told that the words were from a foreign language). This was followed by exposure to a single-word lexical decision task in which participants were presented with pairs of nonsense words that were previously used in the equivalence training and testing or were completely novel. Priming effects were observed within but not across equivalence relations, in that recognition was faster for a nonsense word that was preceded by an equivalent rather than a non-equivalent word. In Experiment 2, the lexical decision task was presented immediately after the conditional discrimination training (i.e., before an equivalence test), and the priming effect was replicated for those participants who subsequently passed the equivalence test but not for those who failed. Experiment 3 employed a two-word lexical decision task (rather than the single-word task), and event related potentials were recorded during specific priming trials. The reaction time effect was again replicated, and the grand average N400 waveforms and peak amplitudes were greater for non-equivalent word-pairs relative to directly trained and equivalent word pairs. All three experiments provided evidence to support the argument that derived stimulus relations are a useful preliminary model of semantic relations.
Visual-Visual Equivalence Relations and Semantic Priming: A Behavioural and Event Related Potentials Study
EOGHAN J. RYAN (APU, Cambridge, UK), Simon Dymond (APU, Cambridge, UK), Robert Whelan (APU, Cambridge, UK), Dermot Barnes-Holmes (National University of Ireland, Maynooth)
Abstract: If derived relational responding is to provide a functional-analytic account of language and cognition, then it follows that many of the measures of language and thought processes typically employed within cognitive psychology, such as semantic priming, should be sensitive to derived stimulus relations. The research reported here was designed to test this suggestion using episodic and mediated priming. In the current study, adult participants were first exposed to conditional discrimination training designed to establish four, four-member derived equivalence relations and were then presented with a standard lexical-decision task. The presentation of across-class primes and targets resulted in increased response latencies relative to within-class primes-target pairs. No differential effects were found for accuracy scores, however. During this experiment, event related potentials (time-locked, averaged electroencephalograms) were recorded. In addition to the increased response latencies to across-class prime-target pairs, a larger N400 waveform was also recorded. This waveform has been shown in cognitive research to be sensitive to semantic relatedness. Taken together, these data lend support to the argument that derived relations constitute behavioural units of human language and cognition.
Auditory-Visual Equivalence Relations and Semantic Priming
SIMON DYMOND (APU, Cambridge, UK), Kelly J. Garner (APU, Cambridge, UK), Robert Whelan (APU, Cambridge, UK), Eoghan J. Ryan (APU, Cambridge, UK), Dermot Barnes-Holmes (National University of Ireland, Maynooth)
Abstract: If derived-stimulus relations are to provide a behavioural model of semantic relations found in natural language, then behavioural and electrophysiological measures of semantic relations within cognitive neuroscience research should apply to derived stimulus relations. The present experiments sought to examine cross-modal (auditory-visual) semantic priming with derived equivalence relations and incorporated behavioural (response latencies and errors) and event-related potential measures. In Experiment 1, subjects were first exposed to conditional discrimination training designed to establish four, three-member derived equivalence relations. Two of the four classes contained an auditory node (i.e., a computer-generated spoken pseudoword) and the remaining two classes contained purely visual stimuli. Subjects were then presented with a standard lexical-decision task, before being exposed to a formal matching-to-sample test for equivalence relations. Experiment 2 utilized the same procedure with the added measurement of event-related potentials during the lexical decision task.



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