Master's Theses

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access

Date of Award

Summer 1967

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Edna Rawlings


This study was designed to investigate the feasibility of utilizing operant conditioning techniques in changing delinquent girls’ attitudes and behavior towards authority figures. Two experimental groups, performing on a modified Taffel task, received either social or tangible reinforcement for expressions of positive or favorable statements towards authority figures. Two groups controlled for the effects of verbalizing in the context of authority and receiving reinforcement. It was found that conditioning was possible; however, there were no significant changes in attitude or behavior. Important, though not significant, trends were that subjects receiving tangible reinforcement tended to show a positive change in responding to the attitude scale and were observed by staff members as displaying more desirable behavior. Subjects receiving tangible reinforcement tended to be more aware of the response-reinforcement contingency. Of particular interest was the tendency for heightened levels of awareness of the response-reinforcement contingency to produce increased variability in subjects’ responses in the reinforced response class. This trend was discussed in terms of some personality characteristics which might affect an individual’s susceptibility to conditioning. The findings in this study suggested areas for further research.


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© 1967 Dwight Eugene Gillespie

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