Effects of a meaningful, a discriminative, and a meaningless stimulus on equivalence class formation


Publication date


Series/Report no

Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior;97(2)


Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

Document type


Thirty college students attempted to form three 3-node 5-member equivalence classes under the simultaneous protocol. After concurrent training of AB, BC, CD, and DE relations, all probes used to assess the emergence of symmetrical, transitive, and equivalence relations were presented for two test blocks. When the A–E stimuli were all abstract shapes, none of 10 participants formed classes. When the A, B, D, and E stimuli were abstract shapes and the C stimuli were meaningful pictures, 8 of 10 participants formed classes. This high yield may reflect the expansion of existing classes that consist of the associates of the meaningful stimuli, rather than the formation of the ABCDE classes, per se. When the A–E stimuli were abstract shapes and the C stimuli became SDs prior to class formation, 5 out of 10 participants formed classes. Thus, the discriminative functions served by the meaningful stimuli can account for some of the enhancement of class formation produced by the inclusion of a meaningful stimulus as a class member. A sorting task, which provided a secondary measure of class formation, indicated the formation of all three classes when the emergent relations probes indicated the same outcome. In contrast, the sorting test indicated ‘‘partial’’ class formation when the emergent relations test indicated no class formation. Finally, the effects of nodal distance on the relatedness of stimuli in the equivalence classes were not influenced by the functions served by the C stimuli in the equivalence classes



Postprint version of published article. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the SEAB journal. It is not the copy of record.

Permanent URL (for citation purposes)

  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/1154