Master's Theses

Date of Award

Summer 1969

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Melvin Snyder


To test the validity of Sutherland’s (1964) model and accompanying rules that relate to discrimination learning and the partial reinforcement effect (PRE), the present study examined acquisition and extinction rates of humans of their performance on a discrimination task. The task for all Ss in the present study was to discriminate a (triangle) triangle in order to get a red (reinforcement) light to come on. A 2x2 factorial design was used on acquisition and extinction data, and correlations were made between the acquisition and extinction responses. The main factors in this study were: (A) telling half of the Ss that the geometrical shapes of the stimulus objects, rather than their color or size, must be attended to, in order to solve the problem. (B) Providing half of the “told” and half of the “not told” groups with continuous reinforcement, and providing half of the “told” and half of the “not told” groups with partial reinforcement. It was predicted that the “told” partial and continuous reinforcement groups would acquire and extinguish the discrimination response relatively faster than the “not told” partial and continuous reinforcement groups. More interestingly, it was predicted that there would be an interaction between the two main factors during extinction. Support for Sutherland’s (1964) theory was to be seen in the significantly reduced PRE for the “told” partial and continuous reinforcement groups. This was not the case, as the PRE was obtained in both of the “told” and “not told” groups. However, these results may be reconciled with Sutherland’s (1964) theory.


Copyright 1969 Richard Ledford Beattie


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