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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Invited Tutorial #99
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
SQAB Tutorial: Associative Symmetry, Emergent Relations, and Stimulus Class Formation
Sunday, May 29, 2016
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Lucerne, Swissotel
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
PSY/BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: Gregory J. Madden, Ph.D.
Chair: Gregory J. Madden (Utah State University)
Presenting Authors: : PETER URCUIOLI (Purdue University)

Associative symmetry is one of a number of derived relations that can emerge after explicit training on other conditional relations. Here, untrained but accurate B?A conditional discrimination performances arise from training A?B conditional relations, a finding indicative of stimulus class formation (i.e., the development of sets of disparate but interchangeable stimuli). Recent research shows that human language capabilities are not necessary for associative symmetry; it can also reflect basic reinforcement and stimulus control processes.This tutorial will describe the history of the now-successful search for symmetry in an animal other than humans (viz., the pigeon) and show how this important finding led to demonstrations of other rarely or never-before seen emergent relations in a non-human animal. Central to these demonstrations is the presenter's theory (Urcuioli, 2008) of the origin of stimulus classes in pigeons, specifically, the reinforcement contingencies of training, the nature of the functional stimuli, and the effect of common functional stimuli across different reinforced relations. The theory makes precise, testable and often confirmed predictions about the training conditions that should, and should not, yield emergent relations such as symmetry, transitivity, and reflexivity.

Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:

Licensed psychologists, certified behavior analysts, graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, the participant will be able to: (1) describe associative symmetry and why it is an example of an untrained or “emergent” relation; (2) define a “stimulus class” and describe how stimulus classes develop and are demonstrated; (3) cite newly discovered emergent relations in non-human animals and outline a theory to explain these behavioral effects.
PETER URCUIOLI (Purdue University)
Peter Urcuioli is Professor of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of New Hampshire where he worked with Tony Nevin, and his Master's degree and Ph.D. in experimental psychology at Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia, Canada) where he was a graduate student of Vern Honig. After a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship with Tony Wright at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston, Peter joined the faculty at Purdue University in 1981. Peter has made significant contributions to the areas of discrimination learning and stimulus control, differential outcome mechanisms, animal memory and cognition, and stimulus-class formation. His research has been continuously funded since 1983 by NIH and NSF, and he has over 70 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as Behavioural Processes, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Learning and Behavior, Learning & Motivation, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, and the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. His recent ground-breaking work on equivalence relations in pigeons reveals a wide range of never-before-seen emergent relations that are predicted by his innovative theory of stimulus-class formation that incorporates basic stimulus control and reinforcement assumptions.
Keyword(s): Emergent Relations, Reflexivity, Symmetry, Transitivity



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