Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




The effect of positive verbal reinforcement on the verbal self-references of hospitalized psychiatric patients was studied. Eighteen patients, characterized by a high production rate of negative, verbal self-references, were matched on the following variables: age, length of hospitalization, medication, psychotherapy participation, intelligence quotient, sex, and adjustment score discrepancy obtained on a Q-sort test. After the subjects were given the pre-experimental Q-sorts and matched on the other variables, nine were randomly assigned to the experimental group and nine to the control group. All of the subjects were then administered six individual interviews in which they responded to 30 questions and statements per interview. The questions and statements were designed to elicit verbalization from the subject about himself (self-references). In addition to the examiner, two additional judges were employed to classify the questions and statements. The mean inter-judge percentage of agreement was 84%. A chi square technique was used to analyze this data and it was found there was no significant difference in the classifications of the three judges.

Verbal reinforcement consisting of "That's very good," "That's just fine," or "That's great" was given by the examiner following any positive self-reference made by the experimental subjects. The control subjects were not given any systematic reinforcement although, head nodding was randomly used to maintain speech. Forty-eight hours after the last interview, each subject was again given the Q-sorts to obtain a post-experimental adjustment score discrepancy. The reliability of scoring the subjects' self-references as negative, positive, or neutral was determined by having two additional judges score the self-references. A mean percentage of 88% was obtained for inter judge agreement. Using the chi square technique again, it was found that there was no significant difference in inter judge classifications.

A t test for correlated data was employed to analyze the results statistically. The number of positive and negative verbal self-references in the last interview were compared to those in the first interview. This comparison was made for both groups. The discrepancy between how the subjects described themselves versus their ideal selves before and after the six interviews was analyzed statistically. The results indicated that the verbal reinforcement used was effective in significantly increasing the number of positive verbal self-references and subsequently decreasing significantly the number of negative verbal self-references. When no systematic verbal reinforcement was given, the positive verbal self-references significantly decreased while the negative verbal self-references significantly increased. The subjects reinforced for their positive self-references manifested a significant increase in the congruence between their self and ideal-self Q-sorts. There was no significant increase in this congruence for the subjects who did not receive the systematic reinforcement.

Discussion of the results and implications for verbal conditioning experimentation, behavior modification, and personnel working with patients such as those used in this study were drawn.


vii, 71 leaves ; 28 cm. Bibliography: leaves 69-70


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