Speech and Hearing Sciences ETDs


Val R. Smith

Publication Date



The following problem was investigated: can persons be conditioned to emit a verbal response without their awareness of the response-reinforcement contingency? It was hypothesized that when a “set to problem solve,” is not induced and experimenter effect due to the subject­experimenter interaction is eliminated, subjects are conditioned to emit a verbal response without an accompanying contingency awareness. Three experiments were conducted in order to test the hypothesis. In experiment 1 an attempt was made to condition vocal response length using a visual reinforcer. In experiments 2 and 3 an attempt was made to condition use of specific pronouns using a visual reinforcer. All three experiments demonstrated that when “set to problem solve” and E - S interaction was eliminated, conditioning did not occur. The central finding of this study was that while elimination of "set to problem solve” may be a necessary antecedent of conditioning without awareness, it is not a sufficient condition. It was further concluded that 2 states of affair may exist concerning the role of response­reinforcement contingency awareness in verbal operant conditioning: (1) it is possible that awareness is necessary for conditioning in any instances; (2) it may be the case that a rival alternative hypothesis exists to explain why conditioning did not occur without awareness.

Degree Name

Speech-Language Pathology

Level of Degree


Department Name

Speech and Hearing Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Gerald Martin Goldhaber

Second Committee Member

Lawrence Bernard Rosenfeld

Third Committee Member

Henry Carleton Ellis

Fourth Committee Member

Ralph Wayne Pace



Document Type