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Behaviour Therapy in the 1970s. A Collection of Original by Laurence E. Burns

By Laurence E. Burns

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An extension and development of the theme of imitation can be found in an experiment by Wilson and Walters (1966). The aim of this study was to increase the speech output of 12 near-mute schizophrenics and to discover more about the role of imitationwith-reinforcement as a method of building up behaviour. A visual stimulus was used and patients were instructed to talk about 35-mm. slides that were shown, and money was used as a reinforcer. The study was in three parts. The first was a well-controlled study of the role of imitation-only as compared to imitation-withreinforcement.

The Conversation Test,—In this procedure control patients received 25 sessions of reinforcement for speech; it would be expected that their speech would improve to a greater degree than it had done (where they were reinforced for silence). Table III gives the pre-, post-, and change scores for control patients in the main experiment and in the crossover procedure, and the differences in the amount of change in these two periods. In the crossover procedure the mean change was 25-9 per cent compared to 1-2 per cent in the main experiment.

ADDITIONS TO THE M A I N EXPERIMENT Since control patients had been reinforced for maintaining silence it might be expected that they would speak less than they had originally done (assuming they had spoken at all before the experiment started). The 5 control patients were now given 25 sessions in which reinforcement was contingent upon speech and not upon silence ; this was called a 'crossover procedure'. For those experimental patients whose speech had markedly improved 25 generalization sessions were now given in which an attempt was made to generalize the conditioned behaviour to places other than the experiment room and to people other than the experimenter.

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