Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Jack L. Michael

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling

Third Advisor

Dr. R. Wayne Fuqua

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


Motivation is a central concept in most psychological theories, however, behavior analysts have neglected this topic to some extent. Skinner dealt with motivation in terms of deprivation and aversive stimulation. A more recent consideration of the topic of motivation from a behavioral perspective suggests the possibility of learned motivative variables. The present experiment was an attempt to develop a type of learned motivative variable called a transitive conditioned establishing operation (CEO). A transitive CEO is closely related to the concept of conditional conditioned reinforcement. To develop a transitive CEO, human subjects were taught to use a mouse to click on two squares presented side-by-side on a computer screen. On a variable-ratio 8 basis clicking on the left square produced a knocking sound. In the presence of the knocking sound clicking on the right square produced points, but only in the presence of a particular background pattern. After a short time, subjects only clicked on the left square in the presence of the background pattern in which the knocking sound was associated with points. It is argued that the background pattern has two effects, (1) it controls the effectiveness of the knocking sound as a form of conditioned reinforcement, and (2) evokes any behavior that has in the past produced the knocking sound. It is these two characteristics that make the background pattern a form of learned motivative variable.

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