Researchers from behavior analytic, developmental, and comparative perspectives have all investigated the conditions under which new arbitrary (symbolic) stimulus-stimulus relations are acquired. For example, young children, people with severe mental retardation, and several species of nonhuman mammals all exhibit emergent matching (EM) in the context of a well-established matching-to-sample baseline: When presented with an undefined sample stimulus and a comparison array that includes one undefined comparison and one or more baseline comparisons, participants select the undefined comparison. Further, subsequent testing may show a learning outcome: Exposure to EM trials may result in a new defined relation involving the formerly undefined stimuli. Between 1974 and the late 1980s, emergent matching and learning outcomes were described independently by behavior analytic, child language, and animal cognition researchers. Cross-literature citations were virtually absent, however. More recently, crossdisciplinary citations have begun to appear. This article briefly reviews the history of EM research, emphasizing the independent development of research programs, methods, and terminology in the three disciplines. We then identify several research areas where a multidisciplinary approach may benefit all concerned.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- General Psychology