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ERIC Number: EJ878720
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Mar
Pages: 21
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 24
ISSN: ISSN-0022-5002
The Contextually Controlled, Feature-Mediated Classification of Symbols
DeRosse, Pamela; Fields, Lanny
Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, v93 n2 p225-245 Mar 2010
The classification of names of people or objects based on the features acquired by the names and the sorting instructions provided is a commonplace occurrence. For example, given the names Renoir, Pollock, James and Voltaire the average adult would be able to classify them differentially based on the instruction to classify them based on vocation or nationality. In general, such a repertoire reflects the reclassification of symbols (i.e, the names of individuals) in terms of contextual cues (instructions to sort by vocation or nationality) and the features acquired by the symbols (the specific nationalities and vocations). The present experiment studied this phenomenon with the use of arbitrary stimuli that did not have clear preexperimental associations. Two of 4 participants classified the symbols into different equivalence classes based on the prevailing contextual cues and the features that had been acquired by the symbols. Using an ABA reversal design we then demonstrated that 1 participant classified the symbols in accordance with the contextual cues and acquired features when present, but not in the absence of the contextual cues. A 3rd participant showed symbol classification that differed from that predicted by the procedures, and the 4th classified the symbols based on one set of features but not on context. These data describe one set of conditions that could account for the establishment of complex classification repertoires that occur in natural settings. (Contains 6 figures and 6 tables.)
Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Available from: Indiana University Department of Psychology. Bloomington, IN 47405-1301. Tel: 812-334-0395; FAX: 812-855-4691; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York