Date of Award:

1971

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Ronald S. Peterson

Abstract

The general purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of the operant conditioner's behavior during the baseline upon subsequent operant conditioning of opinion statements emitted by freshmen undergraduate students. Specifically, the study attempted to answer the following research questions:

  1. Is it possible to systematically condition opinion statements in a verbal conditioning situation that resembles a counseling interview?
  2. Does the behavior of the operant conditioner during the baseline have any influence on subsequent conditioning of opinion statements in a verbal conditioning situation resembling a counseling interview?
  3. Is there a difference in the number of opinion statements emitted in a verbal conditioning situation resembling a counseling interview for males and females?
  4. Is there any interaction between the baseline behavior of the operant conditioner, the sex of the subject, and the stage of treatment in the conditioning of opinion statements?

Subjects for the study were freshmen undergraduate students. Two experiments were conducted in which each subject was seen individually twice in an "interview" setting. Treatments were administered in an ABAB design with each stage lasting twenty-five minutes. All "interviews" were taped and listeners listened to the tapes and tabulated opinion and non-opinion statements for each stage. The operant conditioners recorded opinion statements as they occurred by pressing foot switches that activated counters in another room. The correlation between the numbers of opinion statements tallied by the operant conditioners and the listeners was .98 in both experiments.

In experiment one, a trained undergraduate operant conditioner administered four treatments to forty subjects. There were five males and five females in each treatment condition. Treatments one, two, and four consisted of continuous verbal reinforcement being administered for the emission of opinion statements during stages two and four. For treatment one the baseline and return to baseline conditions consisted of silence by the operant conditioner. During treatment two, the operant conditioner administered random reinforcements on an average of two and one-half minutes during stages one and three. During the baseline and return to baseline conditions for treatment four the operant conditioner and the subjects engaged in normal conversation. Treatment three subjects received silence from the operant conditioner during the baseline and return to baseline conditions and engaged in normal conversation with the operant conditioners during stages two and four.

In experiment two, a different trained undergraduate operant conditioner administered three treatments to thirty subjects, five males and five females in each treatment condition. In treatment one random reinforcement during the baseline and return to baseline was followed by variable interval reinforcement administered on an average of every two and one-half minutes. Treatment two consisted of random reinforcement followed by continuous reinforcement. During treatment three non-opinion statements were reinforced on a variable interval schedule of two and one-half minutes during the baseline and return to baseline stages, and opinion statements were reinforced on a variable interval schedule of two and one-half minutes during the conditioning stages.

The major findings indicated that:

  1. Verbal conditioning occurred under continuous reinforcement conditions and when variable interval reinforcement was preceeded by reinforcement of non-opinion responses.
  2. The baseline behavior of the operant conditioner was not a stastically significant factor in subsequent conditioning of opinion statements.
  3. There was no difference in the number of opinion statements emitted by males and females.
  4. There were significant interactions between the baseline behavior of the operant conditioner, the sex of the subject, and the stage of treatment in the conditioning of opinion statements.

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