Faculty Articles


Delayed Outcomes and Rule-Governed Behavior Among "Noncompliant" and "Compliant" Boys: A Replication and Extension

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The Analysis of Verbal Behavior






The present research investigated the effects of verbal, contingency-specifying, stimuli on compliance among two groups of preschool-aged boys. Experiment 1 assessed the joint influence of prior compliance history and reinforcement parameters on compliance, and Experiment 2 explored the utility of distinguishing between the evocative and function-altering effects of verbal stimuli. Results from Experiment 1 showed that statements specifying a behavior and an outcome controlled similar levels of compliance in "compliant" and "noncompliant" boys under conditions of immediate reinforcement, but as the opportunity for reinforcement became more delayed (or nonexistent), the performance of "noncompliant" boys deteriorated. Results from Experiment 2 showed that statements specifying immediate and delayed reinforcers, but not statements specifying no reinforcer, controlled high levels of compliance in both compliant and noncompliant boys, even after a 15-20 minute delay in the opportunity to respond. These results suggest that rules, or contingency specifying stimuli with function-altering, rather than evocative effects, reliably control the behavior of boys as young as 4 or 5 years-old.

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