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Keywords:

  • contextual control;
  • non-arbitrary relations;
  • pragmatic verbal analysis;
  • relational frame theory

The aims of the current study were (i) to explore the flexibility and generalizability of non-arbitrary relational contextual control in human participants and (ii) to provide a simple empirical model of pragmatic verbal analysis, a key element in the relational frame theory approach to problem solving. Participants were trained to respond to abstract shapes as cues for responding in accordance with non-arbitrary relations of sameness, difference and opposition. Next, sameness, difference and opposition relational responding was brought under additional contextual control by arbitrary B1–B3 stimuli, such that, depending on the B stimulus presented, relational responding was applied to one of three distinct physical dimensions of multidimensional shapes. Equivalence training and testing was then provided such that participants showed derived relations between the B stimuli and three novel arbitrary C stimuli. Two additional cues were then trained such that they occasioned comparative (more/less) relations. A final test showed that the C stimuli exerted contextual control over physical dimensions in the novel context of more/less/same non-arbitrary relational responding. These findings provide a simple, preliminary model of pragmatic verbal analysis.