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Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior


Symmetry, Bidirectional associations, Multiple exemplar training, Successive matching to sample, Nonhumans


Sidman et al.'s (1982) failure to find evidence for symmetry (bidirectional associations between stimuli) in monkeys and baboons set the stage for decades of work on emergent relations in nonhumans. They attributed the failure to the use of procedures that did not (1) promote stimulus control based on the relation between the sample and correct comparison and (2) reduce control by irrelevant stimulus features. Previous reviews of symmetry in nonhumans indicated that multiple exemplar training and successive matching might encourage appropriate stimulus control. This review examined 16 studies that investigated symmetry in 94 subjects, including pigeons, rats, capuchin monkeys, and baboons. Several studies used alternative training procedures to minimize sources of irrelevant stimulus control, and many combined multiple exemplar training with other procedural modifications. Symmetry was observed in approximately 30% of subjects. Studies that reported the strongest evidence for symmetry used successive matching‐to‐sample procedures that included training on both symbolic and identity relations, and studies finding mixed evidence employed alternative methods. These studies highlight the challenge in creating training procedures that promote symmetry and the need to assess the underlying sources of control on positive demonstrations.




This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Lionello‐DeNolf, K.M. (2021), An update on the search for symmetry in nonhumans. Jrnl Exper Analysis Behavior, 115: 309-325, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


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