Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi

Second Advisor

Dr. Howard Farris

Third Advisor

Dr. Jack Michael

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Edward Trembly


Five children, ages 5 to 6 1/2 years, were trained to learn and relearn four-link behavioral chains using conditioned reinforcement. Subjects were presented with a horizontal array of 12 chips in four equal groups. During Control Learning (CL) sessions, a new sequence of responses was learned through contingency shaping. The same sequence was presented later that day during a Control Relearning (CRL) session. Instruction on correct responses was provided during Instruction Learning (IL) sessions. The same sequence was presented without instruction during an Instruction Relearning (IRL) session later that day. Thus, new behavioral chains were acquired during CL and IL sessions.

The results of Experiments I and III demonstrated that children can acquire behavioral chains quickly and with few errors when provided with S('D) (vocal instructions) for correct responding. Even though instruction was clearly effective in evoking rapid and near error-free acquisition of response sequences, it was not substantially more effective than non-instruction in terms of maintenance of the acquired behavior across time. Reacquisition performance was improved when sequences were acquired without instruction. These findings replicated those of Boren and Devine (1968) with monkeys, and Peterson (1980), Ozuzu (1982), and Danforth (1983) with children. The present results extend the generality of these findings to a repeated acquisition procedure in which the instructional stimuli were vocal in nature and where the visual aspects of the learning situation remained the same in both instruction and non-instruction conditions.

Experiment II attempted to replicate, within an individual organism design, the findings of Smiley (1974) regarding the effects of vocal instructions. Results of the experiment were inconsistent across the two subjects, and therefore only partially replicated those of Smiley.

This study replicated the effects of vocal instruction on the acquisition and maintenance of behavioral chains while controlling for sequence effects not addressed in previous similar studies.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access