Nonverbal behavior correlated with the shaped verbal behavior of children
Children under 6 years old pressed on response windows behind which stimuli appeared (star or tree). Presses occasionally lit lamps arranged in a column; a present was delivered when all lamps were lit. A random-ratio schedule in the presence of star alternated with a random-interval schedule in the presence of tree. These contingencies usually did not produce respective high and low response rates in the presence of star and tree, but the shaping of verbal behavior (e.g., “press a lot without stopping” or “press and wait”) was sometimes accompanied by corresponding changes in response rate. Verbal shaping was accomplished between schedule components during verbal interactions between the child and a hand-puppet, Garfield the Cat, and used social consequences such as enthusiastic reactions to what the child had said as well as concrete consequences such as delivery of extra presents. Variables that may constrain the shaping of verbal behavior in children seem to include the vocabulary available to the child and the functional properties of that vocabulary; the correlation between rates of pressing and what the child says about them may depend upon such variables.
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