Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The primary purpose of this study was to investigate regression among psychiatric groups in a verbal conditioning situation. Secondary purposes were to study the conditioning performance of the psychiatric groups and their awareness of the reinforcement contingency.
The actual Ss were 30 male and 30 female patients selected from the resident population of the North Dakota State Hospital. Ss were selected on the basis of the official diagnosis of schizophrenia, psychoneurosis, or personality trait disturbance, age, and months of hospitalization. Sixteen individuals in each of the diagnosis x sex categories were randomly selected to serve in either an experimental or control group. The first 5 Ss in each of the diagnosis x sex categories to achieve the conditioning criterion were utilized in the investigation of regression. Of the 73 patients utilized, 13 did not achieve the criterion. These Ss were used only for comparisons between conditioners and nonconditioners.
The Ss in the experimental group received 27 reinforcements for adjectives followed by 27 reinforcements for plural nouns. Reinforcement was a flash of green light and a point registering on a counter. Ss were instructed that the number of points they received would determine how much money they would receive when the session was completed. Punishment by means of a red light was then administered for all verbal responses in a 5-minute punishment period. Ss were instructed that red lights meant that points and money were being lost. The control group received 27 reinforcements for plural nouns only and then punishment during the 5-minute punishment period. The E administered all reinforcement and punishment from behind a one-way mirror and had no personal contact with the Ss prior to the experiment. Instructions to Ss were taped and transmitted to them over a speaker. The E's research assistant had only minimal personal contact with the Ss prior to the experimental session and following this when a questionnaire was administered to assess awarenesss of the reinforcement contingency.
Hypotheses advanced in this investigation were:
1. The experimental group would demonstrate significantly more regressed responses than the control group.
2. Schizophrenics in the experimental group would demonstrate significantly more regressed responses than neurotics who in turn would demonstrate significantly more regressed responses than character disorders.
3. Schizophrenics in the experimental group would regress more quickly to an earlier learned response than neurotics who in turn would regress more quickly than character disorders.
4. Neurotics and character disorders in the experimental and control groups would demonstrate greater conditionability than schizophrenics.
5. Operant levels for conditioners would be significantly higher than for nonconditioners.
6. More character disorders and neurotics would demonstrate awareness of the reinforcement contingency than schizophrenics.
Analysis of the results supported the hypothesis that the experimental group would demonstrate regression when compared to the control group. Hypotheses concerning differential regression among the three diagnostic groups were not supported. the hypothesis involving differential conditionability among the diagnostic groups not only failed to receive full support, but there were nonsignificant trends in the opposite direction. Comparisons between conditioners and nonconditioners on base rate data suggested the importance of total verbal operant level in determining conditions. Since only 5 Ss were judged aware, no conclusions could be drawn concerning the awareness hypothesis.
Failure of this research to support the hypothesis of differential regression among the diagnostic categories was discussed in relation to methodological inadequacies and the theory from which the hypotheses were derived. The absence of differential conditionability among the diagnostic categories was discussed in relation to pre-experimental E-S interaction. Suggestions were made for utilizing a verbal condition situation in furth studies of regression, stress, rigidity, and psychotherapy.
Orwick, Perry O., "Regression in a Verbal Conditioning Situation as a Function of Psychiatric Illness" (1968). Theses and Dissertations. 3714.