Toward an empirical analysis of verbal motivation: A possible preparation for distinguishing discriminative and motivation

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APA Citation: 

Ju, W. C. (2001). Toward an empirical analysis of verbal motivation: A possible preparation for distinguishing discriminative and motivational functions of verbal stimuli. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Nevada, Reno.

Publication Topic: 
RFT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
verbal motivation; discriminative functions; motivational functions; verbal stimuli; nonsense syllables

The present study is an account of human motivational phenomena from a functional contextualistic perspective with the specific goal of improving prediction and influence in the domain of human social activity. The behavior analytic literature on establishing operations and on the transformation of stimulus functions through derived stimulus relations have shown promise with respect to providing the foundation for a naturalistic account of human verbal motivation. The present investigation examined whether nonsense syllables might serve as verbal establishing stimuli temporarily altering the consequential value of reinforcing events participating in an equivalence class with them. It is argued that, by virtue of the transformation of stimulus functions through derived relations, some of the stimulus functions related to these reinforcing events may be brought to bear and serve as an establishing operation for that consequence. The experiment was divided into five phases: (1) Preference Task; (2) Conjugate Reinforcement preparation; (3) Operant Response Training; (4) Conditional Discrimination Training; and (5) Test of Verbal Establishing Stimuli. The Test of Verbal Establishing Stimuli consisted of the following: (a) Free-choice task; (b) combination free-choice and distraction tasks; and (c) presentation of nonsense syllables. Results of the current investigation suggest that probability of responding on a free-choice task in the presence of nonsense syllables was greater than in their absence following extensive exposure to the continuous reinforcement contingency and to the free availability of reinforcers. These momentary increases in the rate of responding suggest that the nonsense syllables might have been functioning as verbal establishing stimuli to momentarily alter the consequential functions of the pictures by virtue of their participation in an equivalence class with the pictures. Subjects varied in the extent to which they were exposed to the programmed contingencies in the Response Stability measures as well as in their response frequencies during the presentation of nonsense syllables. The results obtained for each subject will be examined in depth and a detailed discussion of alternative interpretations of the results will also be presented.