The Conditioning of Verbal Behavior with Negative Cultural Connotations
Zedek, Meira Ellen
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This study deals with two main problems: the effect of positive reinforcements on verbal behavior with negative cultural connotations, and the relationship of awareness of the reinforcement contingency to personality and performance variables. The specific hypotheses tested in this study are: 1. The frequency of verbal behavior that has negative cultural connotations increases when the behavior receives positive reinforcement. 2. The degree of awareness of the reinforcement contingency is inversely related to level of anxiety. 3. The degree of awareness of the reinforcement contingency is directly related to measures of interpersonal skill. 4. The increase in frequency of verbal behavior that has negative cultural connotations is not related to awareness of the reinforcement contingency. 5. The degree of awareness of the reinforcement contingency is inversely related to length of response time. Verbal behavior with negative cultural connotation was operationally defined as verbal responses connoting aggression. The verbal stimulus "Hm Mm" was used as reinforcer. Awareness was defined as the verbalization of the contingency of the reinforcement on verbal responses connoting aggression. Anxiety was defined as scores on the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (TMAS). Measures of interpersonal skill were defined as scores on five scales of the California Psychological Inventory (CPI): Social Presence, Self Acceptance, Dominance, Capacity for Satus, and Sociability. To test the first hypothesis, and experimental group consisting of thirty nine subjects and a control group consisting of twenty subjects were given a word association test, consisting of fifty aggressive and fifty neutral words. The subjects were asked to say three words in response to each stimulus word. From the twenty first stimulus word on, the subjects in the experimental group received reinforcement whenever they gave an aggressive response. The control group did not receive this reinforcement. The responses were recorded and timed. Response time consisted of the time the subjects required to give three response words to each stimulus word. The two groups were then compared with regard to increase in frequency of aggressive responses. To test the remaining four hypotheses, the experimental group was interviewed to ascertain the presence or absence of awareness of the reinforcement contingency. The group was divided accordingly into two groups, the aware group consisting of sixteen subjects and the unaware group consisting of twenty three subjets. These two subgroups were given a questionnaire containing items from the TMAS and the five scales of the CPI. The groups were then compared with regard to scores on this test measuring level of anxiety and interpersonal skill. They were also compared with regard to level of conditioning, as measured by the increase of aggressive responses to the word association test, and with respect to response time scores. The experimental findings supported the first hypothesis and indicated that the frequency of occurrence of verbal behavior with negative cultural connotations increased when the behavior was reinforced. With regard to the hypotheses dealing with awareness, the results supported the second and third hypothesis and showed that degree of awareness was inversely related to level of anxiety, and directly related to measures of interpersonal skill. High degree of awareness was associated with low level of anxiety and vice versa. High degree of awareness was also associated with high level of social presence and self acceptance and vice versa. The experimental findings concerning the relation of awareness to personality variables such as dominance, capacity for status, and sociability, were in the predicted direction but the statistical analysis of the results did not demonstrate population differences. The results also supported the fourth hypothesis and indicated that degree of awareness was not related to overall response level. The hypothesized relationship between degree of awareness and length of response time was not supported by the experimental results. [TRUNCATED]
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