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Behavioral similarity as a reinforcer for preschool children

By Bruce W. Gladstone and James Cooley


Three experiments evaluated whether behavioral similarity provided by an adult could serve as a reinforcer for the modelling behavior of four preschoolers. In each experiment, sessions consisted of two kinds of trials: (1) experimenter-modelled trials, when the child's imitation of modelled motor responses was reinforced with praise and tokens, and (2) child-modelled trials when experimenter imitation of child-modelled responses was contingent upon the child's modelling one of three alternative responses: operation of a ball, horn, or clicker. Experiment I showed that the children consistently modelled whichever responses the experimenter imitated. Experiment II determined whether that performance was due to differences in the amount of experimenter behavior following imitated versus nonimitated child models or to experimenter imitation. Neither reducing nor increasing the amount of experimenter behavior following the children's nonimitated models altered their modelling of imitated responses. Experiment III evaluated whether experimenter imitation of child models was a reinforcer because the child's imitative responses were reinforced on experimenter-modelled trials. In Experiment III, the children's nonimitation of experimenter-models was reinforced with praise and tokens on a schedule of differential reinforcement of other behavior, yet they continued to model experimenter-imitated responses on child-modelled trials. These results indicate behavioral similarity was reinforcing, though no conditioning history through which it acquired that function was demonstrated

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OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:1333362
Provided by: PubMed Central
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