Research Topics

Influences on derived stimulus relations

This program of primarily basic research focuses on how we derive new knowledge that goes beyond the information given, or more technically, how we come to respond appropriately to relations among stimuli that have, in fact, never been associated in direct experience (i.e., they are "derived" or "emergent"). One of our interests concerns the influence of extra-contingency behavior. This is learner behavior that is strictly speaking not required to be successful in a learning task, but may facilitate emergence of derived stimulus relations. As an example, we have recently been studying the effects of visual imagining on test outcomes.  We are also currently interested in how these and other variables might influence the longer-term maintenance of emergent relations.

Representative publications:

Carp et al. (2015) on intraverbal naming and equivalence class formation

Cox & Petursdottir (2021) on effects of training sequence on emergent conditional discriminations

Verbal behavior and bidirectional naming

This strand of basic and translational research, which overlaps substantially with our research on derived stimulus relations, focuses on evaluating behavior-analytic theories of verbal behavior and addressing issues in their translation into application. This includes both the original behavior-analytic theory, B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior, and more recent work on bidirectional naming. For example, we have recently conducted translational work on the assessment of bidirectional naming with both children and adults, and we are currently working on some basic research on divergent and convergent multiple control.

Representative publications:

Oliveira et al. (2023) on summation in multiple control

Petursdottir et al. (2020) on emergent tacting

Evaluating teaching procedures and designs

This strand of translational research overlaps both with our research on derived stimulus relations and our research on verbal behavior and bidirectional naming. Here, however, the focus is on evaluating the efficiency and efficacy of teaching procedures and training designs.  In recent years, we have evaluated several aspects of equivalence-based teaching designs, using basic laboratory tasks. In addition, we have recently been doing some work on foreign-language instruction.

Representative publications:

Oliveira et al. (2021) on the efficiency on equivalence-based instruction

Gee et al. (2020) on procedures for teaching auditory-visual conditional discriminations

Evaluating language intervention procedures

This research similarly focuses on how the outcomes of teaching are affected by procedural and design variables, but in the context of teaching language and communication skills to children with severe language delays due to neurodevelopmental disorders. This area of research is not a primary current focus of our lab, but we maintain intermittent activity through collaboration with other researchers.

Representative publications:

Lepper & Petursdottir (2017) on the effects of response-contingent stimulus pairing on vocalization of speech sounds

Thakore & Petursdottir (2022) on establishing divergent intraverbal responding.