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 #390
Int'l Symposium - Relational Conditioning Processes Relevant to Social Categorization and Self-Evaluation
Monday, May 30, 2005
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
Stevens 3 (Lower Level)
Area: VRB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Rhonda M. Merwin (University of Mississippi)
Discussant: Yvonne Barnes-Holmes (National University of Ireland, Maynooth)
Abstract: Relational conditioning is a process by which stimuli acquire psychological functions in a way far less direct than operant or respondent conditioning principles would predict. Unlike direct learning processes, relational conditioning has not been demonstrated in nonhuman subjects. Thus, it is considered by some researchers to be central to complex human behavior (e.g., language, cognition, emotion) (Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001). Recent studies examining derived relational responding have found that stimuli that are emotionally salient or clinically relevant impact stimulus equivalence class formation (e.g., Barnes, Lawlor, Smeets, & Roche, 1996; Leslie, Tierney, Robinson, Keenan, & Watt, 1993; Plaud, 1995). Changes in acquisition appear to be related to subjects’ pre-experimental learning history. This symposium consists of three databased presentations. Each study examines basic behavioral processes relevant to social categorization or self-evaluation. Specifically, the three studies use stimuli that are either socially loaded or self-relevant and examine 1) equivalence class formation 2) merging of experimentally established competing classes and 3) transformation of psychological function.
Deriving Equivalence Relations Between Self-referential and Evaluative Stimuli: A Process Account of Self-Evaluation
RHONDA M. MERWIN (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi), Chad E. Drake (University of Mississippi)
Abstract: This study examines the acquisition of equivalence classes when classes contain both self-referential and evaluative stimuli. It is a replication and extension of Merwin and Wilson (in press) and it addresses a number of limitations identified in the initial study. The current study consisted of two loaded conditions and a neutral condition. The neutral condition examined subjects’ ability to form equivalence classes with neutral stimuli. The loaded conditions included self-referential and evaluative stimuli. In one of the loaded conditions, subjects received conditional discrimination training that resulted in equivalence relations between self-referential stimuli and positive evaluation words; in the other loaded condition, subjects received training that resulted in equivalence relations between self-referential stimuli and negative evaluation words. The order in which the loaded conditions were presented was pseudo-random. Accuracy and latency data for the three conditions were examined. The performance of subjects that reported high distress and negative-self was compared to the performance of subjects that reported low distress and a positive-self. Findings and implications will be discussed.
A Behavior Analytic Approach to the Effect of Self-Relevance and Evaluation on Social Categorization
CHAD E. DRAKE (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)
Abstract: This study explores the effect of self-relevance and evaluative salience, separately and in combination, on derived relational responding to stimuli associated with social categories. Participants engaged in a matching-to-sample procedure that shaped up competing groups of socially loaded stimuli. After successful training, new training was administered that was incompatible with the previous training. Participants were then tested for inclusive or exclusive responding. Findings and implications will be discussed.
Stigmatizing Body Images and Relational Conditioning
JONATHAN WEINSTEIN (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi), Chad E. Drake (University of Mississippi)
Abstract: This study examines the transfer of stigmatized stimulus functions to otherwise unrelated stimuli using a two-step sorting task (i.e., Implicit Associations Test; IAT) and a matching-to-sample (MTS) preparation. Subjects completed the IAT two times, once before and once after the MTS task. The pre-training IAT required subjects to sort stimuli that would later be used in the equivalence training of the MTS task. Conditional discrimination training of the MTS task resulted in the formation of stimulus equivalence classes that contained socially loaded stimuli (i.e., obesity images) and neutral stimuli. Testing examined whether the stigma function of the obesity images transferred to the previously neutral stimuli in the post-training sorting task. Data will be presented and implications discussed.



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