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Theses Doctoral

The Effect of a Social Condition on the Establishment of Direct and Indirect Conditioned Reinforcement for Writing by Second Graders

Lee, Jennifer

I used an alternating treatments design and a delayed multiple probe across participants design to conduct a functional analysis of the effects of a social condition on the direct reinforcement value of writing and indirect conditioned reinforcement for writing. I defined the direct reinforcement value of writing as writing taking place under conditions where the natural contingencies of writing resulted in the participant emitting the behavior. That is, writing automatically or implicitly reinforced the participant’s behavior and the reinforcement was intrinsic to the stimulus. I defined indirect conditioned reinforcement for writing as changes in performance (the emission of behaviors already in repertoire) or learning (acquisition of new repertoires) when opportunities to write were the consequence for responding. I conducted a functional analysis of indirect conditioned reinforcement for emitting performance behaviors through analyzing changes in rate of writing the letters A-Z. Two treatment conditions were implemented in which green tickets (access to a preferred activity) or red tickets (opportunities to write) were delivered upon responding to the performance task. I tested indirect conditioned reinforcement for learning new operants through analyzing correct responding when participants were given opportunities to learn new chemical element names. For this dependent variable, participants were given immediate access to an opportunity to write upon correct responses to learning presentations. Lastly, I measured the direct reinforcement value of writing in 5-minute observations of responding to writing tasks, where I collected data on whole, 5 s intervals of writing. After establishing that participants’ behaviors were not directly or indirectly reinforced by writing, I exposed participants to a social condition where he or she was deprived of opportunities to write. I chose participants because their rate of writing was slow and writing was not a preferred activity. I conducted 2 experiments, with the second as a replication and expansion of the first. Experiment 1 results showed writing was not an indirect reinforcer for emitting performance behaviors and learning new operants, and writing was not a direct reinforcer. Following the social condition, direct reinforcement for writing increased for all participants and opportunities to write were indirect reinforcers for performance behaviors and acquisition of new operants for 2 participants, with marginal increases for 1 participant. Experiment 2 was a replication of Experiment 1, with 4 added dependent variables including number of letters written, number of words written, a statistical analysis of naïve readers’ scores of permanent products, and numbers of correct structural and technical components. Results showed increases in direct reinforcement for all participants, and increases in indirect reinforcement for emitting performance behaviors for 2 out of 4 participants. Indirect reinforcement for learning new behaviors increased for 3 participants. Results are discussed in terms of the onset of the demonstration of the ability to acquire new reinforcers via social conditions as a prerequisite for some verbal developmental cusps, different kinds of reinforcement, and writing in the context of today’s educational practices.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Behavior Analysis
Thesis Advisors
Greer, R. Douglas
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 4, 2016