The utility of a correct choice under conditions of verbal reinforcement Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/hd76s3420

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  • The purpose of this study was to test Siegel's utility model of choice behavior under conditions of verbal reinforcement, in a nursery school population of both sexes. Two major hypotheses were tested: The ordinal hypothesis stated that under conditions of increased value of the payoff subjects' stable-state strategies will occur in increasing order from matching to pure strategies. The quantitative hypothesis stated that there is no difference between the predicted and observed stable-state strategies. In order to test the above mentioned hypotheses, thirty subjects were randomly chosen from a preschool population. These in turn, were assigned to the three payoff conditions; no payoff, payoff, payoff-loss. Each subject was observed under two different experiments which were identical with respect to all utility relevant features, but were different with respect to the proportion of the occurrence of the two events, π[subscript i] values. In one experiment π₁ was set equal to .75 and in the other π₁ was set equal to .80. The apparatus used was Humphrey's (1939) modified, two-light situation. This apparatus had never been used before with a preschool population. The occurrence of the two lights was predetermined randomly and was held constant during the experiment. The order in which the two experiments were presented to each of the subjects was random so that not all subjects received the same π[subscript i]. Reinforcement was given by the same individual in both the experiments. The most frequently occurring event was reversed for each of the subjects from the first to the second testing situation. Under the no payoff condition the subjects did not receive any extrinsic reinforcement. Under the payoff condition the subjects received positive reinforcement only for the correct choice. Under the payoff-loss condition the subjects were reinforced positively for the correct choice and reinforced negatively for the incorrect choice. The positive verbal reinforcement used was, 'That's right, that's very good.' The negative verbal reinforcement used was, 'That's wrong, that's not very good.' The data under both the experiments were in the form of p[superscript -] values, the proportion in which the subject chose the most frequently occurring event. Before testing for the overall ordinal hypothesis the data were tested for sex differences. It was found that there was a significant difference between the stable-state strategies of boys and girls under the no payoff condition when π₁ = .80 and under the payoff condition when π₁ = .75. The ordinal hypothesis which predicted increase in stable-state strategy with increased payoff was considered untenable as a result of inspecting the data, the data were such as to suggest that the type of verbal reinforcement used, namely, a repetitive, simple, monotonous type, was an ineffective reinforcer. The data were further examined to see if these subjects had at least a rudimentary grasp of the concept of probability adequate to the task in the experiment. It was concluded that the sample of preschool children exhibited little, if any, understanding of the concept of probability. In testing the second hypothesis, the Siegel model was used to quantitatively predict the stable-state strategies of boys and girls from one experiment to the observed stable-state strategies in the other experiment. Similarly, the data from the second experiment was used to predict the stable-state strategies of boys and girls in the first experiment. It was concluded that the strategies predicted from the model for both boys or girls under the no payoff and payoff-loss condition did not differ significantly from their observed stable-state strategies. Under the payoff condition, the model predicted accurately for boys but not for girls. Heretofore, the Siegel model has been used to predict only with group data. But, since utility refers to subjective value, in this study the model was used to predict the stable-state strategies of individual boys and girls, from one condition to the other. It was concluded that in predicting the individual stable-state strategies the Siegel model does not predict for girls under conditions of the present study.
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