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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Promoting Relational Responding: The Role of Prior Exposure to the Sample


The relational match-to-sample (RMTS) task is used to gauge sensitivity and preference for relational content in the presence of compelling object-based alternatives. On each trial, participants see a triad of 3-element shape sequences: target item (YXY), object match (YVO), and relational match (TWT). Traditionally, human adults show a moderate relational preference — supporting the structural alignment account of similarity-based processing. In the present study, we replicate preliminary findings showing that relational responding is facilitated relative to baseline if the target item is initially presented in isolation with a query to generate a short written description. However, we also observed that initial isolated presentation of the target with no accompanying task led to a similarly elevated rate of relational responding. These findings suggest that a minimal manipulation of presenting the target by itself prior to revealing the full RMTS triad promotes relational responding. We discuss implications for underlying mechanisms driving RMTS performance.

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