Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forty first grade pupils were asked to select from three reinforcers (pennies, candy, gummed stars) by choosing between two reinforcers at a time until all reinforcers had been matched against all others three times. The pupils' first choice and last choice were then used in simple math tasks to attempt to determine if the reinforcers chosen were more reinforcing than the rein forcers not chosen. One fourth of the subjects received their first choice, one fourth their last choice, one fourth their first and last choice on an alternating schedule, and one fourth were free to choose between the three reinforcers each day. All subjects worked the math problems five minutes each day for ten consecutive school days. At the end of the ten days all subjects were again asked to select their preferred reinforcers using the same method and reinforcers used in making the original choices. Comparisons were made between total correct task answers of each group of subjects. A comparison was made between the effects of each kind of reinforcer. A third comparison was between choices made on the pre- and post-experimental choice of reinforcers. The underlying questions to which this experiment attempted to give partial answers were: (1) Was it more reinforcing to let pupils choose their rewards rather than to assign rewards to them, and if so, could the pupils select ahead of time what rewards would be most reinforcing? (2) Were pupils consistent in their choices, or would they change their choice of rewards? (3) Did change of reward affect performance? Results indicated that for this age pupils getting to choose their rewards was no more reinforcing than having the rewards assigned to them. Many of the pupils did change their choice of rewards from pre-test to test time, during the test period, and again on the post-test inventory. Changing of reinforcers did not affect performance as measured by the number of correct answers on math problems.


James Ryabik

Date of Award

Summer 1973

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


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