, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 315-326

Effects of positive and negative feedback on behavior control in hyperactive and normal boys

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The hypothesis that hyperactive boys have relatively less response to negative feedback than to positive feedback was studied. Sixteen hyperactive boys and 16 controls were compared on two tasks under different feedback conditions. Feedback conditions were no feedback, positive feedback, and negative feedback. Tasks were symbol encoding and correcting spelling words. Hyperactives and controls were compared in amount of time on-task and amount of work correctly completed. Hyperactives were on-task significantly more under conditions of negative feedback than under positive feedback, but negative feedback significantly increased errors on the spelling correction task. Controls were equally responsive to positive, negative, or no feedback. Hyperactives accomplished significantly less than controls on the coding task, but performed as well as controls on the spelling correction task, which was administered to each boy at his own level of spelling ability. The results imply that while consistent negative feedback can reduce off-task behavior for hyperactives, it can also decrease the accuracy of the work they are doing.

This research was supported in part by U.S. Public Health Service Training Grant (in Biological Science) No. MH07081. This article is based on a dissertation presented to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Washington University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph. D. degree. The assistance of Dr. John A. Stern in helping with the preparation of the dissertation is gratefully acknowledged. The generous assistance of Dr. Cynthia Janes in helping prepare this paper is appreciated. The dissertation is available from University Micro-films (Order No. 74-13, 799). The assistance of Ms. B. Talent and Ms. S. Weiner in making reliability checks is gratefully acknowledged.