Arbitrarily applicable comparative relations: Experimental evidence for a relational operant
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Arbitrarily applicable derived relational responding has been argued by relational frame theorists to be a form of operant behavior. The present study examined this idea with 4 female participants, ages 4 to 5 years old, who could not perform a series of problem-solving tasks involving arbitrary more than and less than relations. In a combined multiple baseline (across responses and participants) and multiple probe design (with trained and untrained stimuli), it was shown that reinforced multiple-exemplar training facilitated the development of arbitrary comparative relations, and that these skills generalized not just across stimuli but also across trial types. The sequence of training identified potential prerequisites in the development of comparative relations (e.g., nonarbitrary comparative relations). Taken as a whole, the present data, along with previous work by others in this area, suggest that relating arbitrary events comparatively is an operant. The implications of this conclusion for the analysis of complex behavior are discussed.
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