Children's Emergent Relations of Equivalence using Stimuli with Opposite Verbal Labels: Exclusion and Minimal Training Conditions

Jacqueline Schenk, Mickey Keenan, Harrie Boelens, Simon Dymond, Paul Smeets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


The present study examined different conditions under which exclusion responding in conditional discrimination tasks would generate emergent equivalence relations in young children based on shared relationships with verbal labels. Both visual stimuli (Sets A, B, C, and D) and auditory stimuli (spoken words, Set N: N1 "correct"; N2: "incorrect") were used. Following a pilot study, three experiments were conducted, each involving eight preschool children. These experiments systematically investigated under which conditions responding by exclusion (i.e., responding away from a designated S - comparison in a matching to sample context) would generate sufficiently stable sample-S + relations for arbitrary stimulus classes to establish. The results showed that young children's exclusion responding under test conditions will only contribute to arbitrary stimulus class formation and expansion when training has already established two arbitrary stimulus classes involving at least two stimuli each. For young children to demonstrate emergent conditional discrimination performances that are indicative of the formation of equivalence relations, it is necessary to have training and/or reinforced exposure to both S + and S - control elements required for deriving the appropriate emergent relations with at least two conditional relations involving different samples. These findings not only contribute to existing research and theory on the conditions under which exclusion responding may contribute to fundamental language and learning processes, they also contribute to the experimental predictability of emergent conditional matching behaviours in preschool children by further unravelling the conditions under which emergent matching based on exclusion generates arbitrary conditional relations of equivalence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104341
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioural Processes
Early online date2 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank all the children who participated in this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Matching-to-sample
  • responding by exclusion
  • stimulus equivalence
  • emergent relations
  • children
  • Pilot Projects
  • Humans
  • Attention
  • Child, Preschool
  • Discrimination Learning


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