Reinforcement, stereotypy, and rule discovery
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The effects of reinforced pretraining on subsequent rule discovery were examined with college students as subjects. Levels of behavioral stereotypy observed during reinforced and non-contingent pretraining were compared. During pretraining subjects received reinforcement if they pressed two keys in a particular sequence. During the problem session pressing each key four times was a necessary condition for reinforcement, but each problem had additional different requirements for reinforcement. Subjects were asked to solve the problems by discovering the rule that determined whether or not they received reinforcement. Levels of stereotyped responding during pretraining were equivalent for contingently and non-contingently trained subjects. During the problem session contingently pretrained, non-contingently pretrained, and naive subjects required equal numbers of trials to solve problems and solved the same number of problems. The results suggest that behavioral stereotypy observed in this experimental preparation may be due to repeated exposure to the task. Differences between the results observed in this study and that of Schwartz (1982) and implications for the use of reinforcement procedures in applied settings are discussed.
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