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.


First International Conference; Italy, 2001

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Symposium #58
Laboratory Approaches to the Study of Complex Verbal Relations
Thursday, November 29, 2001
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Palladian Refectory Hall
Area: EAB; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Mark Galizio (University of North Carolina, Wilmington)
Abstract: The experimental analysis of human behavior has undergone a period of rapid growth over the past two decades, with topics once reserved for cognitive psychology increasingly giving way to a behavioral analysis. In this symposium we will explore some current laboratory research on complex verbal relations. Pilgrim and Galizio examine some variables related to the stability of equivalence classes in children of different ages, showing that age-related differences in performances can be influenced by specific training experiences. Dougher examines the transformation of operant and respondent functions via relational training, showing that stimulus functions can be acquired indirectly on the basis of stimulus relations. Hackenberg and Bejarano examine the relations between verbal and nonverbal behavior in a choice context, showing that verbal behavior can sometimes override contingencies arranged for nonverbal behavior, even when it results in reinforcement loss. Together, the research presented here demonstrates the utility of studying complex human behavior under laboratory conditions.
Equivalence Class Flexibility in Children
CAROL PILGRIM (University of North Carolina at Wilmington), Mark Galizio (University of North Carolina at Wilmington)
Abstract: Traditional psychological approaches have viewed concept or category organization as the outcome of two conflicting tendencies - one is to modify categories to reflect new experiences and the other is to resist change, due to the effort required and the loss of continuity with previous systems. The present program of study investigated the flexibility of experimentally determined equivalence classes in the face of potential class challenges with normally developing children across a range of ages, to determine the extent to which clas flexibility co-varies with age. All participants learned two 3-choice conditional discriminations and demonstrated the emergence of three, 3-member equivalence classes. Contingencies for one of the baseline conditional discriminations were then modified, and tests for equivalence were presented again. Original training and testing conditions were reinstated in the final experimental phases. Results showed substantial and unsystematic disruption in equivalence performances following the class challenge in young children, while performances consistent with the modified contingencies became more likely with age. However, training protocols that involved class-specific reinforcers resulted in performances from 4-6 year-olds more like those shown by older children and adults. Thus, specific experiences can be identified that influence the coherence between equivalence-test performances and the 4-term contingencies in effect.
Stimulus Relations and the Transformation of Operant and Respondent Function
MICHAEL J. DOUGHER (University of New Mexico)
Abstract: The purpose of the present experiments was to determine whether the transformation of functions that has been demonstrated with stimulus classes can also be demonstrated via non-class based stimulus relations. College students were exposed to relational pre-training intended to establish a relational function (smallest, medium, largest) for three different ambiguous visual stimuli. This entailed match-to-sample training using the relational stimuli as samples and comparison arrays consisting of three visual stimuli that differed only in size. Selections of the smallest, medium, and largest comparison were differentially reinforced depending upon whether the arbitrarily designated "smallest," "medium" or "largest" sample was presented. Once the relational functions had been established, the "medium" sample was used to train an operant bar press response and as a CS in a respondent conditioning arrangement. The operant task simply required the subjects to press the space bar on a computer keyboard at a consistent rate. The respondent procedure entailed pairing the "medium" sample with either mild shock or CO2 exposure. Skin conductance served as the UR and CR. Following this, the other two samples were presented first in the operant task and then in the respondent arrangement. Eight subjects responded more slowly to the "smallest" sample and more rapidly to the sample in the operant task. In addition, relative to their skin conductance responses to the "medium" sample, six of the eight subjects showed a diminished CR to the "smallest" sample and an increased CR to the "largest" sample. The second experiment employed some additional control procedures to rule out the possibility of inadvertent control by stimulus classes but produced similar results. These data argue strongly that stimulus functions can be acquired indirectly on the basis of stimulus relations.
Verbal-Nonverbal Relations in a Choice Context
TIMOTHY D. HACKENBERG (University of Florida), Rafael Bejarano (University of Florida)
Abstract: The aim of this experiment was to examine the correspondence between verbal and nonverbal choices as the contingencies arranged for such choices were systematically altered across conditions. Four adult humans chose repeatedly between two schedules of points worth money, a progressive-time (PT) schedule and a fixed-time (FT) schedule that, in addition to delivering points, reset the progressive-time schedule to its minimum value. Subjects' guesses of the most profitable choice sequence also produced points. The accuracy of the reinforced guesses was manipulated by reinforcing a particular guess while varying PT step size (Phase 1), and by reinforcing increasingly inaccurate guesses while holding constant PT step size (Phase 2). The reinforced guess was made consistently across all conditions in Phase 1. Choice patterns initially corresponded with these guesses, but eventually departed from the guesses in 3 of the 4 subjects in ways consistent with the manipulations of PT step size. For the other subject, choice patterns corresponded with guesses across all conditions, despite substantial losses in potential earnings. When guesses were manipulated in Phase 2, choice patterns corresponded with guesses across all conditions in 2 of the 4 subjects. For the other 2 subjects, choice patterns corresponded with guesses initially, but in later conditions little correspondence was seen: choice patterns and guesses were both related to the contingencies but not to each other. The results show that the degree of correspondence between verbal and nonverbal choices generally varied with the contingencies arranged for those choices. In some cases, however, correspondence was maintained even under conditions when it was clearly suboptimal, suggesting that contingencies arranged for verbal behavior cam sometimes override contingencies arranged for nonverbal



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