The relation between stimulus function and equivalence class formation

Ian T. Tyndall*, Bryan Roche, Jack E. James

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Fifty participants were exposed to a simple discrimination-training procedure during which six S+ functions were established for six arbitrary stimuli, and S-functions were established for a further six stimuli. Following this training, each participant was exposed to one of five conditions. In the S+ condition, participants were exposed to a stimulus equivalence training and testing procedure using only the six S+ stimuli as samples and comparisons. In the S+/S- condition, participants were exposed to the same training and testing sequence as in the S+ condition, the difference being that three S+ and three S- stimuli were used as sample and comparison stimuli, with each set of three corresponding to the trained equivalence relations. In the S+/S- mixed condition, the S+ and S- stimuli were assigned to their roles as samples and comparisons in a quasi-random order. In the S- condition, all six S- stimuli were used. The no-function condition served as a control condition and employed stimuli for which no stimulus-control functions had been established. The results showed that, on average, participants required more testing trials to form equivalence relations when the stimuli involved were functionally similar rather than functionally different. Moreover, participants required more test trials to form equivalence relations when novel arbitrary stimuli, rather than functionally distinct stimuli, were used as samples and comparisons. The speed of acquisition of stimulus equivalence was also related to the number of functionally similar stimuli established before training. These findings indicate a variety of ways in which the emergence of equivalence relations is affected by the functional classes in which the relevant stimuli participate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-266
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2004

Other keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Functional classes
  • Humans
  • Stimulus equivalence
  • Stimulus function


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