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Some thoughts on the concept of Stimulus check

Reflection is made on the concept of stimulus check in operant conditioning theory, and especially on the concept of the discriminative stimulus. For this, the logical and definitional problems that the use of the concept of stimulus in general and that of discriminative stimulus in particular have. Various experiments by the author are reviewed to show the inability of the concept of discriminative stimulus to account for a series of data that show the logical and empirical insufficiencies of the concept.

Some thoughts on the concept of stimulus check in operant conditioning theory and in particular on the concept of a discriminative stimulus are presented. The paper presents the logical and definitional problems regarding the use of the concept of stimulus in general and of a discriminative stimulus in particular. Several experiments conducted by the author are presented to exemplify the logical and empirical inadequacies of the concept of discriminative stimulus to account for a series of data.

With the permission of the publisher of this volume, I am going to allow myself to point out some conceptual problems of the use that is given to the concept of discriminative stimulus and its technological-operational derivative, that of stimulus check. This last concept supposes the restricted “irradiation” of the functions of the discriminative stimulus to dimensionally adjacent or similar stimuli (stimulus generalization). The logical problems presented by these concepts are not unique to them, but are shared by the set of categories of operant conditioning theory.

To a large extent, although not exclusively, these problems stem from the operationalist logic of the theory, as I have previously examined (Ribes, 2003, 2004). In any case, To carry out this conceptual examination, I am going to base myself on two types of criteria, by the very nature of the analysis. The first has to do with the definitional logic of the concepts used and their appropriate use.

The second has to do with empirical observations extracted, most of them, from experiments carried out in my laboratory in which, when some of the experimental conditions regularly used to study stimulus check are varied, the antecedent stimuli do not show the expected functional properties. by operant conditioning theory. Some conceptual and empirical problems Skinner (1938) distinguished between two functions of the stimuli that precede the conditional-response: the evocative function, assigned to conditional stimuli (CD) in respondent-type conditioning, and the discriminative function, characteristic of discriminative and delta stimuli in the operant conditioning.

Conditional stimuli are usually defined based on their duration and overlap with respect to the unconditional stimulus, and their function is identified in relation to a component or fraction of the unconditional response. Conditional stimuli were described as signal stimuli by Pavlov (1927) or as preparatory stimuli by Skinner himself. Instead, discriminative (and delta) stimuli are regularly defined as stimuli in the presence of which a response produces the delivery of reinforcement and in the absence of which the response is not effective.

Discriminative stimuli occur during more or less extensive periods, delimited by the occurrence of a reinforcer under a certain program, or by the course of a period in which one or more reinforcers can occur, although the period ends without terminal responses are followed by the reinforcer, as is often the case in multiple independent programs and concurrent programs (Ferster & Skinner, 1957). In this case, Skinner stated that discriminative stimuli select effective responses to produce the occurrence of reinforcement.

Discriminative stimuli occur during more or less extensive periods, delimited by the occurrence of a reinforcer under a certain program, or by the course of a period in which one or more reinforcers can occur, although the period ends without terminal responses are followed by the reinforcer, as is often the case in multiple independent programs and concurrent programs (Ferster & Skinner, 1957). In this case, Skinner stated that discriminative stimuli select effective responses to produce the occurrence of reinforcement.

Discriminative stimuli occur during more or less extensive periods, delimited by the occurrence of a reinforcer under a certain program, or by the course of a period in which one or more reinforcers can occur, although the period ends without terminal responses are followed by the reinforcer, as is often the case in multiple independent programs and concurrent programs (Ferster & Skinner, 1957). In this case, Skinner stated that discriminative stimuli select effective responses to produce the occurrence of reinforcement. although the period ends without the terminal responses being followed by the reinforcer, as usually happens in multiple independent programs and in concurrent programs (Ferster & Skinner, 1957).

In this case, Skinner stated that discriminative stimuli select effective responses to produce the occurrence of reinforcement. although the period ends without the terminal responses being followed by the reinforcer, as usually happens in multiple independent programs and in concurrent programs (Ferster & Skinner, 1957). In this case, Skinner stated that discriminative stimuli select effective responses to produce the occurrence of reinforcement.

It is obvious that this distinction places in stimulation-correlated stimuli in no man’s land superimposed on the occurrence of “unconditional” or “spontaneous” responses not induced by the enhancer or required to produce the enhancer, or when it comes from stimuli incidental to an explicit operant contingency (Brown & Jenkins, 1968; Morse & Skinner, 1955), responses initially considered as a “second” and “third form of superstition”.

In operant conditioning, two fundamental criteria are used to identify stimulus check (Rilling, 1977): one, is the difference in the frequency of occurrence of the response in the presence or absence of: a) a stimulus correlated with reinforcement, b ) a stimulus not correlated with reinforcement or, c) a stimulus correlated with non-reinforcement; Another criterion has to do with the development of typical patterns of repeated responses under certain reinforcement programs, patterns related to the ratio, interval and pause programs.

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