The effects of specific versus nonspecific reinforcement on verbal behavior
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The current study is a systematic replication and extension of previous research on the differences between specific (mand) and nonspecific (tact) reinforcement. The focus was on the role that these different consequences played in the acquisition of verbal behavior. Using both a within-subject and a between-subjects design, the current researchers trained eight essentially nonverbal individuals to tact a variety of foods under two different reinforcement conditions. The results showed no significant differences between the four matched-pairs in rates of acquisition, or in the resistance to extinction. However, subjects in the specific reinforcement condition emitted more untrained mand-compliance responses, while subjects in the nonspecific group demonstrated increased generalization to multiply controlled mand conditions. The results supported previous findings which indicated that the two types of consequences were equally effective in the acquisition of tacting, but each had unique features and implications for language training with nonverbal populations.
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