Center for Health Policy and Research (CHPR) Publications


Stimulus equivalence, generalization, and contextual stimulus control in verbal classes

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry; Shriver Center; Center for Health Policy and Research

Publication Date


Document Type



Generalization (Psychology); Generalization, Stimulus; Verbal Behavior


Behavioral Disciplines and Activities | Behavioral Neurobiology | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Psychiatry and Psychology


Stimulus generalization and contextual control affect the development of equivalence classes. Experiment 1 demonstrated primary stimulus generalization from the members of trained equivalence classes. Adults were taught to match six spoken Icelandic nouns and corresponding printed words and pictures to one another in computerized three-choice matching-to-sample tasks. Tests confirmed that six equivalence classes had formed. Without further training, plural forms of the stimuli were presented in tests for all matching performances. All participants demonstrated virtually errorless performances. In Experiment 2, classifications of the nouns used in Experiment 1 were brought under contextual control. Three nouns were feminine and three were masculine. The match-to-sample training taught participants to select a comparison of the same number as the sample (i.e., singular or plural) in the presence of contextual stimulus A regardless of noun gender. Concurrently, in the presence of contextual stimulus B, participants were taught to select a comparison of the same gender as the sample (i.e., feminine or masculine), regardless of number. Generalization was assessed using a card-sorting test. All participants eventually sorted the cards correctly into gender and number stimulus classes. When printed words used in training were replaced by their picture equivalents, participants demonstrated almost errorless performances.


Anal Verbal Behav. 2012;28(1):3-29.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Analysis of verbal behavior

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed