The Equivalence in Equivalence-Based Instruction
The translation of stimulus equivalence (SE) technology into application has generated enthusiasm based on the premise that SE procedures constitute an efficient approach to teaching. However, the premise that teaching a smaller number of relations takes less time or effort than teaching a larger number of relations is necessarily true only if the relations comprising the larger number are independent during acquisition. Such independence does not seem to follow from any major theories of SE; yet, the applied literature on equivalence-based instruction (EBI) contains tentative support for greater efficiency of EBI relative to complete instruction (CI) in which all possible relations between stimuli in a putative class are taught directly. I will describe a series of laboratory experiments with college students that compared EBI and CI using arbitrary stimulus relations. The first experiment, using a linear-series training structure, found no evidence that EBI produced faster acquisition than CI when mastery criteria were equated across conditions. The second found an advantage of EBI over CI when mastery criteria were relaxed in the EBI condition, suggesting that greater efficiency of EBI over CI may be due to mastery assessment practices. The third experiment added a one-to-many EBI condition and found that with mastery criteria equated across conditions, one-to-many EBI produced faster acquisition than linear-series EBI and CI, whereas linear-series EBI was no more efficient than CI. The last finding, while practically supportive of EBI, may be theoretically unexpected.
Anna Ingeborg Petursdottir received her PhD from Western Michigan University. She is currently an associate professor of psychology and chair of the psychology department at Texas Christian University (TCU). She also holds an appointment as a part-time lecturer at Reykjavik University. Anna is a previous editor of The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, a previous associate editor of JABA and a current associate editor of JEAB. She is the current president Division 25 of the American Psychological Association, a board member of the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, a member of the ABAI science board, and a past president of the Texas Association for Behavior Analysis. Anna’s research encompasses both basic and applied interests and focuses primarily on verbal behavior acquisition, stimulus equivalence and other derived stimulus relations, and the relationship between the two.