Breakdown in behavior as a function of unclear communication

This study represents an attempt to assess the relationship between unclear communication and deviant behavior. It was hypothesized that as stimuli became less discriminable, and the consequences of responses became less predictable, behavior would become less efficient, and more inappropriate responses would be observed. To test this hypothesis, four groups of Ss from a prep school were given a verbal learning task consisting of lists of paired associates with two levels of discriminability. Ss were required to learn one of the lists to a criterion of one perfect trial. Upon reaching criterion, either 50% or 100% reversal was instituted. Following institution of reversal, all Ss were given two additional test trials. This study was replicated using students from a remedial school, in order to test for the influence of behavioral problems upon performance level in this task. The study yielded a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design with two levels of discriminability, and two levels of reversal, using Ss from both schools. Three dependent variables were measured on all Ss: trials to criterion, number of errors after reversal was instituted, and number of inappropriate responses during reversal. The results supported the major hypotheses. The groups given the less discriminable word list showed a greater number of trials to criterion than those given the more discriminable list. The groups given 50% reversal showed more errors and inappropriate responses than the groups given 100% reversal. There were no statistically significant differences in performance between the two schools.