Rick A. Smith

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Jack L. Michael

Second Advisor

Dr. Norman Peterson

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Montjoy

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Two female children, aged 11 and 14 months, were exposed to a procedure in which an experimenter-emitted vocal response was paired with a reinforcing stimulus (positive condition), a neutral stimulus (neutral condition), or a mild aversive stimulus (negative condition). An AB design was utilized to examine the effects of the pairing procedure on the subjects* vocal responding. Sessions were conducted in each subject’s home. Only one subject was exposed to the pairing with a neutral (control) stimulus, and with the mild aversive verbal stimulus. Responding during the post-pairing period remained constant in the neutral condition, but was markedly reduced in the negative condition. A gradual increase in the frequency of non-paired vocal responses was seen after a vocal behavior-free period. The pairing procedure altered the type, and rate of vocal responding. In 75% of the sessions the paired response increased in frequency after pairing with respect to baseline levels. These data provide experimental evidence for the existence of automatic conditioned reinforcement and punishment, both of which are integral components of Skinner’s analysis of behavior.