Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Nelson F. Smith


The present study attempted to demonstrate that conditioning the skin resistance response in institutionalized retardates would facilitate their learning of a two-choice discrimination task.

Half of the subjects were instrumentally reinforced for the skin resistance response to a white noise stimulus prior to learning a discrimination problem; half were not reinforced in the presence of the white noise stimulus, which subsequently preceded the onset of the discrimination problem.

The findings of the present study were: (1) that no SRR conditioning effect was measured with the parameters and reinforcement used; (2) it was not possible to discern a transfer effect of the SRR conditioning procedure to discrimination learning, probably because no conditioning was obtained; (J) there was no facilitation effect on the number of correct responses when a white noise stimulus immediately preceded the onset of the discrimination task stimuli; and (4) white noise presentation facilitated response latency during the discrimination learning task.

The finding that white noise facilitated response latency was related to the retardates' attention deficit. The evidence presented indicated that the retardates' ability to attend to a task, and select specific cues, are probably different processes underlying attention.

It was concluded that the facilitated response latency was likely due to the alerting effect of the orienting response elicited by the white noise stimulus.



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