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Title: Transitive inference and arbitrarily applicable comparative relations : a behaviour-analytic model of relational reasoning
Author: Munnelly, Anita
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2013
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The transitive inference (TI) problem (i.e., if A > B and B > C, then A > C) has traditionally been considered a hallmark of logical reasoning. However, considerable debate exists regarding the psychological processes involved when individuals perform TI tasks. The current thesis therefore sought to further explore this issue with adult humans as the population sample. Following a review of the literature, the first empirical chapter, Chapter 2, adopted a traditional TI task and exposed participants to training and testing with a simultaneous discrimination paradigm. In addition, the chapter sought to examine the potential facilitative effects of awareness and repeated exposure to training and test phases on the emergence of TI. Results broadly demonstrated that awareness led to more accurate responses at test, and that for a number of participants, repeated exposure to training and test phases, allowed the targeted performances to emerge over time. Chapter 3 developed and determined the utility of a novel behaviour-analytic account of TI as a form of derived comparative relational responding. For the most part, findings revealed that the model has the potential to generate arbitrarily applicable comparative responding in adults, comparable to TI. However, findings from Chapter 3 also revealed that despite the implementation of a number of interventions, response accuracy was still weak on a number of the targeted relations. Chapter 4 developed a variant of the Relational Completion Procedure (RCP) to examine derived comparative responding to 'More-than' and 'Less-than' relations, as an extension of the behavioural account of TI adopted in Chapter 3. Findings revealed that, for the most part, the protocol was effective in establishing the targeted relations, and that the linearity (e.g., A < B, B < C) of training pairs was not found to effect the emergence of this pattern of responding. Chapter 5 sought to explore the transformation of discriminative functions via a 5- member relational network of 'More-than' and 'Less-than' relations. Findings revealed that, across four experiments, approximately half of the participants displayed the predicted patterns of performance. That is, half of the participants responded 'less' to the stimuli ranked lower in the network (A and B) and 'more' to the stimuli ranked higher in the network (D and E), on the basis of training with stimulus C. The utility of the current behaviour-analytic approach to the study of TI is discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Transitive inference ; Reasoning