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An Examination of the Effects of Feedback Accuracy on Academic Task Acquisition in Analogue Settings

Abstract

Performance feedback is a common procedure used in a variety of settings to change behavior. Although reviews of the literature have identified a number of characteristics of performance feedback that are predictive of effectiveness, little research has examined the influence of feedback accuracy on behavior. The purpose of the present study was to examine both the short-term and long-term effects of inaccurate feedback on the acquisition of match-to-sample tasks. The first study adopted a translational, human operant paradigm to evaluate the effects under highly controlled conditions. Undergraduate students were presented an arbitrary match-to-sample task on a computer. Feedback accuracy was manipulated in an initial phase followed by a condition where only accurate feedback was provided. The second study extended these findings to a more applied setting and population. The results of both studies demonstrated that exposure to inaccurate feedback generally resulted in the failure to acquire the tasks. Of even greater importance, for most participants a carryover effect was obtained, represented by a delay to acquisition following the improvement of feedback accuracy. The patterns of responding obtained suggested both a reinforcement function and rule-governance. Further inquiries into the function of feedback may facilitate an interpretation of feedback accuracy within the context of procedural fidelity. These findings may have implications for organizational and educational settings where circumstances lead individuals to be exposed to conflicting sources of feedback.

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Acknowledgments

This investigation was supported by the University of Kansas General Research Fund allocation #2301523. The research presented in this article was completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the MA degree by the first author at the University of Kansas.

The authors wish to thank Derek D. Reed, David P. Jarmolowicz, and Chris Podlesnik for their invaluable feedback on an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Florence D. DiGennaro Reed.

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Hirst, J.M., DiGennaro Reed, F.D. An Examination of the Effects of Feedback Accuracy on Academic Task Acquisition in Analogue Settings. Psychol Rec 65, 49–65 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-014-0087-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40732-014-0087-y

Keywords

  • Feedback accuracy
  • Performance feedback
  • Instruction
  • Match-to-sample
  • Rule-governed behavior