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Verbal operant conditioning as a function of need for social approval and connotative meaning of the stimulus material Lee, Dong Yul


One hundred and forty four college subjects were divided into twelve groups on the basis of the score on a measure of need for social approval (high and low) and a measure of connotative meaning of the concept 'hippie’ (positive, negative, and neutral). By instituting two reinforcement conditions in a Taffel type of verbal conditioning task, these twelve groups of subjects were positively reinforced on a 100% reinforcement schedule, either congruently or lncongruently with their initial meaning of hippie (2 x 2 x 3 factorial design). The reinforcing stimulus was the experimenter's saying "Good" or "Fine" for a negative or positive description of hippie, depending upon the reinforcement conditions. It was hypothesized that subjects with a high need for social approval would show a greater conditioning performance than subjects with a low need for social approval. It was also hypothesized that subjects who received reinforcement congruently with their meaning of hippie would show a greater increase in the conditioning performance than subjects who received reinforcement lncongruently with their meaning of hippie. The data showed that there was no systematic difference in the conditioning performance between subjects with a high and low need for social approval as measured by the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale. In addition, the need variable did not significantly interact either with the meaning, the reinforcement condition, or the block level of the conditioning trials. However, subjects who were reinforced congruently with their meaning of hippie showed significantly greater increase in the conditioning performance as compared to those who were reinforced incongruently with their meaning of hippie. In fact, subjects who received incongruent reinforcement failed to demonstrate any consistent changes in the rate of response emission during the conditioning period. Subjects with a neutral meaning of hippie showed a conditioning performance greater than the incongruently reinforced groups, but less than the congruently reinforced groups in both reinforcement conditions. The results were interpreted as indicating the importance of the condition under which subjects receive reinforcement—congruent or incongruent reinforcement—in determining responsivity toward socially reinforcing stimuli.

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