Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
The present study assessed the performance of kindergarten subjects on a two dimensional concept-shift task. Subjects were 32 children (16 males and 16 females) ages 63 months to 75 months. The task required the subject to choose one stimulus (large or small, black or white circle) from a pair of stimuli which differed in both size and brightness. Two main questions were investigated: (1) Are kindergarten subjects capable of using hypotheses when the stimulus complexity of the shift is reduced, and (2) under such conditions of reduced stimulus complexity, what effect if any, does partial reinforcement have on ease of shift when instructions are specific to the solution? Subjects were randomly assigned to four equal groups of eight subjects per group. All subjects received errorless pre-training for 20 trials and then were shifted to their respective conditions. Three non-reversal groups were given one of three partial reinforcement conditions during pre-training (20%, 50%, or 80%); the reversal group received no partial reinforcement during pre-training. Nineteen of the 32 subjects were found to have tested hypotheses. Hypothesis-testing appeared to be independent of age and sex but was found to be related to efficient shift solution performance. Reversal shift subjects net the criterion of ten consecutive correct responses in significantly fewer errors than any of the non-reversal groups. No specific effect of amount of partial reinforcement was found. It was concluded that: (1) kindergarten children are indeed capable of testing hypotheses when the stimulus dimensions are reduced, and that (2) under conditions of reduced stimulus complexity partial reinforcement in any of the three experimental amounts impedes non-reversal shift performance. These outcomes were thought to be related to specificity of instructions. Since it was shown that such changes as stimulus simplification and explicit instructions can enable a kindergarten child to demonstrate concept-shift learning at a level of proficiency formerly attainable only by older children, it may be that kindergarten children are capable of learning at a more advanced level than presently thought possible. Such a demonstration might indicate that educators need to critically evaluate current kindergarten curriculum and teaching goals.
Copyright 1976 Robert Kerr
Kerr, Robert, "The Role of Partial Reinforcement, Explicit Instructions, and Hypothesis Testing in Concept-Shift Performance" (1976). Master's Theses. 1625.