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Scholars Day 2008, Wednesday, April 9

The Use of Punishers and Reinforcers to Enhance Learning in College Students

Punishers and reinforcers can enhance learning of numerous tasks; however, the relative effectiveness of each and the effectiveness of combining them are poorly understood. This study examined how punisher magnitude (timeout duration) and reinforcer magnitude (amount of money) affected the ability to learn simple visual discriminations. Fifty-seven college students completed a visual discrimination task that required them to determine and remember the correct response for 8 different stimuli. Participants were assigned to 1 of 4 groups that differed in amount of money received following a correct response, and duration of a timeout following incorrect responses. Participants who received a timeout learned the task more rapidly and were more accurate overall than those who received no timeout. Conversely, receiving reinforcers had no significant effect on learning. This research suggests that punishers may be more effective at altering behavior in some instances than reinforcers

Presenter: Timothy Smallcomb (Undergraduate Student)
Topic: Psychology
Location: 104 Holmes
Time: 11:20 am (Session II)