Theses Doctoral

The Effects of the Establishment of Conditioned Reinforcement for Observing Books on Rate of Acquisition of Textual Responses with Two- to Four-Year-Old Participants

Buttigieg, Susan F.

I tested the effects of conditioning books on the rate of acquisition of textual responses for 16 participants with (11 participants) or without (5 participants) developmental delays, ranging in age from 2.4 to 4.6 years old, in three experiments. Eight males and 8 females participated; the children were selected from an early intervention/preschool program that implemented a behavior analytic approach to all instruction, and they were selected for participation because they did not have book stimuli as conditioned reinforcers for observing, but they did have the necessary prerequisite skills in repertoire to acquire textual responses. The independent variable was the establishment of books as reinforcers for observing responses and as a preferred activity in a free play area. The dependent variable was the rate of acquisition of textual responses before and after books were established as conditioned reinforcers. The embedded dependent variable was the number of 5s intervals participants observed books in the free play setting, and the embedded independent variable was one of three methods of conditioning book stimuli (textual operant discrimination training, Pavlovian second order conditioning, or conditioning books through peer observation). A non-concurrent multiple pre- and post-intervention probe design across groups was used. In Experiment I, the participants ranged in age from 2.4 to 2.7 years old. Participants A and B acquired conditioned reinforcement for observing books as a function of mastering pre-requisite skills (word/picture discrimination) and one set of sight words. Participants C and D required stimulus-stimulus pairings to acquire books as conditioned reinforcers. Results showed that Participants A-D learned sight words 2.20 to 7.25 times faster as a function of having books as conditioned reinforcers. Experiment II differed in that: a) the participants were 3.7 and 4.6 years old, b) more sets of sight words were taught, and c) free play area probes were conducted with peers with and without books as conditioned reinforcers in a systematic fashion. Participant E acquired conditioned reinforcement for observing books as a function of mastering two sets of sight words. Participant F did not acquire books as conditioned reinforcers through sight word instruction, nor through stimulus-stimulus pairings, but did acquire conditioned reinforcement for observing books as a function of the conditioning books through a peer observation intervention. Results indicated that Participants E and F learned sight words 1.6-2.06 times faster than in pre-intervention conditions. Experiment III differed in that a) additional sight words were taught and b) free play sessions were conducted without peers. Results showed that Participants A1- C3 learned sight words 1.5 to 9 times faster (mean= 3.28 times faster) with the exception of Participant A4, who required a mean of one more session (mean of 3.5 sessions to 4.5 sessions) in post-intervention conditions. Participants A2, A4, B3, and C1, acquired books as reinforcers as a function of textual operant discrimination training (TODT). Marked increases in observing books was noted for Participant C3 after TODT, but not to criterion levels. TODT was not effective for Participants A1, A3, B2, and C2, but Pavlovian second order conditioning (PSOC) was effective for these participants. Neither TODT nor PSOC was successful in conditioning books as reinforcers for Participant B1, but conditioning books through peer observation was successful. Results are discussed in terms of: (a) the different interventions to condition books as reinforcers individualized per the repertoires of the participants, (b) the establishment of books as reinforcers as a developmental cusp, and (c) supporting the argument for the establishment of books as conditioned reinforcers as an empirical definition of reading readiness. Word count: 580 Keywords: stimulus-stimulus pairing, book conditioning, sight words, learn units to criterion, nursery school students, developmental delays, reading readiness


  • thumnail for Buttigieg_columbia_0054D_12529.pdf Buttigieg_columbia_0054D_12529.pdf binary/octet-stream 7.72 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Greer, R. Douglas
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 24, 2015