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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cueing--operant conditioning : mediators of experimenter expectancy? Moffat, Michael Carter


The psychological experiment is frequently regarded as a situation which allows for complete control over the inputs to the experimental Ss. Closer examination reveals it to be vulnerable to unwanted and unprogrammed experimenter influence, mediated through essentially two modes of communication-- visual-kinesic and auditory-para Iingulstic. This study examines the effect of different types of S to E feedback of information, mediated by verbal and nonverbal channels of communication, upon the E outcome-bias phenomenon. Experimenters who were given an expectancy for certain responses from their Ss, were placed in an experimental situation that permitted or restricted verbal communication, and included correct, reversed, or no feedback of subjects' responses, on a photo-rating task. Ten Es each ran 12 Ss on a photo-rating task in a study purporting to be a research project developing a test of empathy. The Ss were required to examine 20 standardized neutral photographs of faces and to rate each one on the degree of success or failure that the person pictured had been experiencing. The Es had been led to expect a predominance of success responses from their Ss. The principal hypothesis, that E expectancy effects are independent of the type of S to E feedback, was supported: the photo-ratings by Ss showed a significant increase in magnitude as a function of the number of photos rated, irrespective of the type of S to E feedback permitted. The more photos rated, the greater the magnitude of the success rating. This has relevance for the type of process that should be considered as a mediator of E's expectancy. Three alternative processes are discussed in the light of the findings of the present study. The second hypothesis, that greater E bias effects occur in conditions permitting both verbal and nonverbal cues as compared to conditions permitting nonverbal cues alone, was not supported. This suggests that verbal cues do not make a significant contribution to E bias effects during the data collecting phase of the psychological experiment. Implications of the findings of this study and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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