Learning & Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 256-270

First online:

Using action dynamics to assess competing stimulus control during stimulus equivalence testing

  • Denis P. O’HoraAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, National University of Ireland Galway Email author 
  • , Ian T. TyndallAffiliated withUniversity of Chichester
  • , Mairéad McMorrowAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, National University of Ireland Galway
  • , Rick A. C. DaleAffiliated withUniversity of California Merced


Previous studies have identified potential sources of competing stimulus control in tests for stimulus equivalence. The present experiment employed the Nintendo Wii remote (Wiimote®) to investigate whether such competition would affect suboperant action dynamics (e.g., topographies of equivalence responses). Following one-to-many training on conditional discriminations sufficient to establish three 3-member equivalence classes, participants were presented with a test for equivalence responding that included five different trial types. These included “traditional” equivalence trials, on which the incorrect stimulus had previously been presented as a correct comparison stimulus during training, trials on which a novel unrelated word was provided as the incorrect comparison, and trials on which the incorrect stimulus varied in orthographical and phonological similarity to the sample stimulus. The presence of phonological and orthographic distractor stimuli significantly reduced the probability of equivalence-consistent responding, relative to neutral distractors, but this effect was almost exclusively seen in participants who failed to demonstrate equivalence on traditional equivalence trials. Analyses of correct response trajectories suggested that the prior history of reinforcement for choosing the incorrect stimulus on the traditional equivalence trial gave rise to greater competition than did phonological or orthographic similarity between the sample and incorrect comparisons.


Stimulus control Phonology Orthography Stimulus equivalence Action dynamics Humans Stimulus control topography coherence Naming theory Relational frame theory