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Acta Comportamentalia

Print version ISSN 0188-8145


ALBUQUERQUE, Luiz Carlos de; PARACAMPO, Carla Cristina Paiva; MATSUO, Gilsany Leão  and  MESCOUTO, Wandria de Andrade. Combined variables, rule-governed and contingency-shaped behavior. Acta comport. [online]. 2013, vol.21, n.3, pp. 273-283. ISSN 0188-8145.

To assess the effects of combined variables on following or not following rules, 30 college students exposed to a matching to sample task had to point to each of three stimuli in a given sequence. Session 1 was baseline. Session 2 begun with a rule corresponding to contingencies. Contingencies effective in Session 2 were changed without signaling in Session 3. Contingencies in Session 3, were effective through Session 4, beginning with discrepant rule.Participants were allocated to 6 conditions differing in respect to 1) task complexity - the simple sequence had 3 responses, the complex task had 6 responses -, 2) history of reinforcement- continuous or intermittent (FR 2) -for following the rule in Session 2, and 3) the presentation or not of question asking which behavior produced reinforcement. The results were compared with previous studies results. Together, these results showed that for the simple task, the history of intermitent reinforcement for rule following and no questions asked favored rule following after contingency change, while for the complex task the history of continuous reinforcement of rule-following and question asked favored the abandon of rule-following after contingency change. Data showed also that discrepant rule following 1) tend to be maintained when before presentation of the rule the alternative behavior to the specified by the rule shows to be insensitive to the contingencies - e. g. is under control of the rule, not of imediate contingencies; and 2) tend to stop occurring when before presentation of discrepant rule this alternative behavior shows sensitivity to the contingencies -e.g. is under control of the immediate consequences, not under control of rule. In summary, the combined variables effective in each of Sessions 2 and 3 determined the behavior in Session 3. Also, the combined variables effective in Sessions 2, 3, and 4 determined the behavior in Session 4. The concept of combined variables is advanced to describe the control by rules and by contingencies. The concepts of understanding is revised. The results have also practical implications and the concept of commitment to treatment is revised.

Keywords : Rules and contingencies; asking questions; task complexity; history of reinforcement; commitment to treatment; understanding.

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