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Observational Stimulus Control on Establishing Conditioned Reinforcement for Looking at Books for Preschoolers

Chang, Hung

In Experiment I, I tested the effects of a vicarious reinforcement procedure on the establishment of conditioned reinforcement for observing books (CR+ for observing books) using a pre- and post-intervention embedded with a multiple probe design across two dyads. All four participants could textually respond to kindergarten or first-grade level high-frequency words but choosing and prolonged looking at books (observing books) did not function as a preferred activity for them. The independent variable was the establishment of CR+ for observing books using a vicarious reinforcement intervention. During the intervention, the participants observed a peer confederate reading books while the confederate received frequent social approvals from the experimenter; the participants did not receive social attention (social praise from the experimenter) and were denied access to books during the intervention.

The dependent variables were the rate of acquisition of textual responses and the duration participants spent observing printed words. Results in the first experiment showed three of four participants had an accelerated rate of acquisition of textual responses after books functioned as conditioned reinforcers. Two participants spent a longer time observing printed words after the establishment of CR+ for observing books. However, since denial and observation are components of vicarious reinforcement it is unclear whether vicarious reinforcement effects rather than observation by denial are responsible for the putative vicarious reinforcement effect. In the second experiment, I analyzed the necessity of social attention within the procedure and also investigated the sufficiency of the denial component. More specifically, I removed the vicarious reinforcement and isolated the effects of the observational conditioning-by-denial intervention (OCDI) on establishing CR+ for observing books in Experiment II. I selected six beginning readers who were in the process of learning to textually respond to high-frequency preschool words.

The dependent variables were the rate of acquisition of textual responses, discriminative remembering (i.e., conditioned seeing), and measures of an observational learning repertoire. During the OCDI, two participants and a peer confederate were asked to perform the same task. Contingent upon correct responses, the confederate received books for emitting correct responses while the participants did not. Following the OCDI, all participants acquired CR+ for observing books and five of the participants demonstrated an increase in their degree of observational learning repertoires. Results from the second experiment showed all six participants had a faster rate of acquisition on learning new sight words, and they also demonstrated more accurate discriminative remembering responses after the establishment of CR+ for observing books. These findings are discussed with regard to the educational significance of CR+ for observing books as an empirical definition of reading readiness for young children. In addition, the findings call in to question whether prior literature on vicarious learning is in fact not necessarily a function of seeing response-consequence relations since the effect may be a result of observation under denial conditions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Behavior Analysis
Thesis Advisors
Greer, R. Douglas
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 1, 2021