The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 51–68 | Cite as

Stimulus Control: Part I

  • James A. Dinsmoor


In his effort to distinguish operant from respondent conditioning, Skinner stressed the lack of an eliciting stimulus and rejected the prevailing stereotype of Pavlovian “stimulus-response” psychology. But control by antecedent stimuli, whether classified as conditional or discriminative, is ubiquitous in the natural setting. With both respondent and operant behavior, symmetrical gradients of generalization along unrelated dimensions may be obtained following differential reinforcement in the presence and the absence of the stimulus. The slopes of these gradients serve as measures of stimulus control, and they can be steepened without applying differential reinforcement to any two points along the test dimension. Increases and decreases in stimulus control occur under the same conditions as those leading to increases and decreases in observing responses, indicating that it is the increasing frequency and duration of observation (and perhaps also of attention) that produces the separation in performances during discrimination learning.

Key words

stimulus discrimination generalization gradients observing 


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. Dinsmoor
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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