Verbal Self-Reports as a Function of Speed, Accuracy, and Reinforcement of the Reported Performance
Undergraduates reported about their performance on a delayed matching-to-sample (DMTS) task in which monetary reinforcers depended on both speed and accuracy. They made the reports by pressing “Yes” or “No” buttons to answer computer- presented queries about the speed, accuracy, or reinforcement of their performance on the just-completed DMTS trial. Reports about accuracy were positively, but not strongly, correlated with actual performance. Reports about speed were consistently biased in favor of affirmative reports, with subjects reporting that their DMTS responses were fast enough to earn reinforcement, regardless of actual response speed. Reports about reinforcement showed substantial intersubject variability. Manipulating the interval between DMTS performance and the self-report (from 3 s to 27 s) had no systematic influence on the correspondence between reports and performance, regardless of whether a distractor task was required during the interval. These results are inconsistent with an hypothesis that individuals performing speeded choice tasks directly monitor both speed and accuracy. The experiment illustrates the viability of studying verbal self-reports as operant behavior under discriminative control of some, but possibly not all, aspects of the reported performance.
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