Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Wayne Fuqua

Second Advisor

Dr. Jack Michael

Third Advisor

Dr . Galen Alessi

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Ennis Berker


According to Skinner (1969, 1974), operant behavior can be acquired through two major processes, direct contact between the behavior and its environmental consequences and antecedents in a process referred to as contingency - shaped behavior (CSB) and through verbal mediation by rules and instructions in a process referred to as rule-governed behavior (RGB). CSB and RGB were compared in terms of the speed of acquisition of complex problem skills, the generalization of those skills to new stimuli, and their maintenance. Forty-four college students, 13 males and 31 females, with an average age of 21 .5 years, participated in four sessions of approximately 1 hour each.

Subjects were presented with a series of complex, visual problems drawn from the Standard and Advanced Progressive Matrices of Raven (Raven, 1983, 1986). These problems were arranged into five series of similar difficulty. The first four series of problems were used for training complex problem-solving skills under one of four experimental conditions. Subjects received not raining on the final series of problems which was used to assess generalization of problem-solving skills to novel test items.

On the basis of pretests cores on a short version of the Raven Standard Matrices (Raven, 1986), subjects were assigned to one of four matched groups. These groups were randomly assigned to one of four training conditions. Group one (n _ a 11), the CSB group, received immediate feedback regarding the correctness of each answer on the four series of training problems. Group two (n=10), the RGB group, received a set of instructions on useful problem-solving strategies. Group three (n> 11), the CSB + RGB group, received both the instructions and the feedback. Finally, a control group (n =12), received neither instructions nor feedback.

In general, all the groups obtained gains through the sessions, but visual and statistical analysis (ANOVA) revealed no significant differences between the groups on speed of acquisitions indicated by the number of correct answers, generalization, and maintenance of problem-solving skills. These results are discussed with respect to limits on the generality of prior theoretical distinctions between CSB and RGB suggesting the superiority of RGB for the efficient and effective acquisition of certain behavioral repertoires.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons