Sample stimulus control shaping and restricted stimulus control in capuchin monkeys: a methodological note

UMMS Affiliation

Shriver Center; Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Learning; Cebus


Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Mental and Social Health | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry and Psychology


This paper reports use of sample stimulus control shaping procedures to teach arbitrary matching-to-sample to 2 capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). The procedures started with identity matching-to-sample. During shaping, stimulus features of the sample were altered gradually, rendering samples and comparisons increasingly physically dissimilar. The objective was to transform identity matching into arbitrary matching (i.e., matching not based on common physical features of the sample and comparison stimuli). Experiment 1 used a two-comparison procedure. The shaping procedure was ultimately effective, but occasional high error rates at certain program steps inspired a follow-up study. Experiment 2 used the same basic approach, but with a three-comparison matching task. During shaping, the monkey performed accurately until the final steps of the program. Subsequent experimentation tested the hypothesis that the decrease in accuracy was due to restricted stimulus control by sample stimulus features that had not yet been changed in the shaping program. Results were consistent with this hypothesis, thus suggesting a new approach that may transform the sample stimulus control shaping procedure from a sometimes useful laboratory tool to a more general approach to teaching the first instance of arbitrary matching performances to participants who show protracted difficulties in learning such performances.

DOI of Published Version



Brino AL, Barros RS, Galvão OF, Garotti M, da Cruz IR, Santos JR, Dube WV, McIlvane WJ. Sample stimulus control shaping and restricted stimulus control in capuchin monkeys: a methodological note. J Exp Anal Behav. 2011 May;95(3):387-98. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2011.95-387. PubMed PMID: 21547073; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3088078. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID