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The advance of psychological knowledge about symbolic behavior can be greatly improved by experimental studies about equivalence class formation comprising arbitrary events. Part of what is commonly called symbolic behavior is operant behavior under control of arbitrary relation between symbols and referents. Difficulties in obtaining equivalence class formation in non-human organisms leaded to speculations that language and naming are fundamental pre-requisites for equivalence class formation. Nevertheless, the data currently available in psychological literature suggest that difficulty in obtaining equivalence class formation in non-humans is derived from procedural inadequacies of training and testing.

This is the context of scientific endeavor in which the Experimental School for Primates was born. This research project is to investigate procedures through which the equivalence class formation could be documented in non-humans. Today, a great number of studies are currently taking place in the School. The majority of the studies are trying to develop effective procedures to achieve coherent discriminative repertoires. Moreover, other research topics were incorporated, such as: color vision in Cebus spp., animal wellfare, problem solving and tool use, and the development of animal models for biobehavioral research.

The monkeys (our students) take part in daily experimental sessions where they perform a variety of discriminative tasks, on a touch sensitive monitor screen, or manipulating objects. The procedures comprise simple discrimination, matching to sample, arbitrary matching and a variety of tests to verify control relations and possible emergent relations. A great variety of parametric manipulations and sensory dimensions of stimuli are characteristics many of the different on going studies.

Prof. Dr. Romariz da Silva Barros

For more information, read the article (in portuguese):

GALVAO, Olavo de Faria et al . Escola experimental de primatas. Estud. psicol. (Natal), Natal, v. 7, n. 2, July 2002 . doi: 10.1590/S1413-294X2002000200017.

Núcleo de Teoria e Pesquisa do Comportamento
Programa de Pós Graduação em Teoria e Pesquisa do Comportamento