Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Richard W. Malott

Second Advisor

Dr. Howard Poole


Two experiments examined the effects of training with written instructions on trainees' use of general behavior modification performance skills. In Experiment I, the behavior modification skills of two groups of trainees were assessed in scripted roleplay sessions. Each group participated in differing numbers of baseline sessions before training was presented. Training consisted of studying a set of written rules and examples. Only after training did the trainees demonstrate improved skills. Since the "child" behaviors which were presented during roleplay sessions were all different from one another, the trainees' performance demonstrated generality of the effects of training across "child" behaviors. The trainees' improved performance was maintained throughout the 6-week follow-up, demonstrating generality over time.

In Experiment II, three trainee/child pairs served as subjects. The children were severely mentally retarded and exhibited high rates of undesirable behaviors. Each trainee/child pair participated in differing numbers of baseline sessions before training was introduced to the trainee. Training consisted of reading and making written responses to a programmed text. The text included the written rules from Experiment I, along with test questions designed to test memorization and application of the rules. The trainees' performance only improved after training. In addition, the children's behavior problems decreased after the trainees were trained.

Taken together, the results of the two experiments reveal that written instruction can have a strong facilitative effect on general behavior modification performance skills. The results are discussed in terms of the development of rule-governed behavior (Skinner, 1969).

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access