Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Harry Robe, Clinton Layne, David Shiek

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This study attempted to assess the effect of a speech contingency reinforcement, administered by an interacting adult, to increase the number of word units uttered during test administration. More specifically, the experiment attempted to see if lower class children when given a reinforcer would take more time in giving elaborated and scorable responses on specific items, thereby raising their score on those items. Their performance was compared to lower class children who were not given the reinforcer. Fifty children from the Warren County 1973 summer Headstart program were used as subjects. The treatment conditions included a control group given no reinforcer and an experimental group given M&M's for each word unit. The visual closure subtest of the Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Ability was used to aid in establishing rapport between the children and the examiner and the verbal expression subtest of the ITPA was the test instrument used for the evaluation. A t ratio was used to analyze the results and the indications were that there was no significant increase in the quality of response while there were significant increases in the amount of time spent with the task and the quantity of verbalization. Therefore, there appeared to be sufficient support to justify further research to validate the use of reinforcers as a relevant variable in the development of children's verbal proficiency.


Child Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences