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Theses Doctoral

Effects of Social Reinforcement Versus Tokens on the Spontaneous Speech of Preschoolers

Eby, Carly Moher

Two studies were conducted on the effects of different reinforcement contingencies on the emission of verbal operants by preschoolers. Six participants, 3 females and 3 males, 3- to 4-years old, were selected to participate in Experiment I. Six participants, 5 females and 1 male, 2- to 4-years-old, were selected for Experiment II. In Experiment I, the effects of contingent tokens versus contingent adult attention were tested on the number of tacts emitted in three different experimental settings, using an alternating treatment design. In Experiment II, the effects of contingent tokens versus contingent adult attention were tested on the number of tacts per minute and the percentage of peer-to-peer conversational units. The results from both experiments showed that these participants emitted tacts more frequently with contingent social attention than with contingent tokens. In addition, in Experiment II, peer-to-peer conversational units were low when adult attention was available and increased when adult attention was withheld. Implications of these results include, tacts are maintained specifically by social reinforcers, not simply generalized conditioned reinforcers (i.e., tokens). Thus, special attention must be paid when selecting reinforcers for teaching tacts so that the desired function is taught. Moreover, deprivation of adult-attention appears to function as a motivating operation for enhancing the value of attention from peers.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Behavior Analysis
Thesis Advisors
Greer, R. Douglas
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 26, 2011