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Comparative CognitionExperimental Explorations of Animal Intelligence$
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Wasserman and Thomas R Zentall

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195377804

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195377804.001.0001

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Responses and Acquired Equivalence Classes

Responses and Acquired Equivalence Classes

(p.405) 21 Responses and Acquired Equivalence Classes
Comparative Cognition

Peter J. Urcuioli

Oxford University Press

Humans and other animals will treat disparate things as belonging to the same class or category if they have learned to respond to them in the same manner. By definition, this type of equivalence is acquired through experience rather than being based on the inherent physical similarities between objects. Learned or acquired equivalence classes greatly expand the number and composition of categories that animals (including humans) can form. Acquired equivalence also appears to be synonymous with the cognitive term “conceptualization.” This chapter describes research on the development and detection of acquired equivalence in pigeons and on the processes involved in it. Training pigeons to respond (peck) in a common fashion to distinctly different stimuli brings together those stimuli. This acquired equivalence is often revealed by showing that new behavior learned to just some of the originally trained stimuli transfers to other stimuli in the common-response class. This is an example of within-class generalization. This chapter also considers another type of relation between responding and equivalence classes: the possibility that different responses can themselves become class members.

Keywords:   acquired equivalence, pigeons, class members, stimuli, responses, within-class generalization, training, behavior

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