Psychology ETDs

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Numerous and divergent interpretations of the value of the blank or nonoutcome trial (N) in combination with reinforcement or punishment have been suggested. In all these interpretations N is considered as a response inferred construct. The present study was conducted to directly test the value of N in differential feedback combinations and to provide a critical evaluation of these various interpretations. The experiment consisted of a two phase study employing two simultaneous discrimination problems. In the first discrimination 90 Ss learned a two choice simultaneous discrimination under one of three feedback conditions, reinforcement following a correct response and punishment following an incorrect response (RP), reinforcement following a correct response and N following an incorrect response (RN), or N following a correct response and punishment following an incorrect response (NP). All Ss experienced a minimum of 25 trials regardless of when criterion, 10 consecutive correct responses, was met. In this first discrimination results reflect typical findings with differential feedback combinations, i.e., RP and NP were similar and superior to RN. Next, Ss learned a new simultaneous discrimination in which the positive and negative discriminative stimuli from task 1 were made contingent upon correct and incorrect responses. Feedback conditions in this phase were similar to those of acquisition. In the second phase, performance in each test condition was systematically related to the feedback condition experienced in the first discrimination. Regardless of test condition combination, Ss who experienced RP and NP conditions in the first phase were similar and superior to Ss who experienced RN in the first task. This finding was most consistent with the interpretation suggested by Spence. However, an additional experimental assumption was necessary for this interpretation to account for all the test data.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Douglas Peter Ferraro

Second Committee Member

Henry Carleton Ellis

Third Committee Member

M. Irwin



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Psychology Commons