The effects of vicarious reinforcement on Type A and Type B children in a competitive situation

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Observing another child receive reinforcement has been shown by past researchers to produce two different types of effects: 1) facilitative, or 2) debilitative when children coact in a more competitive situation. Since Type A children have been found to engage in more comparison processes and are more competitive, the purpose of the present study was to empirically determine if Type A and Type B children's responses would differ in situations where they coacted with an intermediate status child who received or did not receive reinforcement. Fourth grade children were designated as Type A, Type B, or intermediate status by their teachers via the Matthews Youth Test for Health. Performance, affective behaviors, and written and verbal self-reports about the experimental situation were the dependent measures. Generally, it was found that reinforcement had non-specific facilitative effects on the performance of a dyad, and a mild facilitative effect for vicarious reinforcement was observed. Observing reinforcement was found to negatively effect children's enjoyment of the task, however. Type A children did not respond differentially than Type B children to observing versus not observing another child receive reinforcement, although Type A children's performances were more variable than Type B children's regardless of the situation. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for understanding vicarious reinforcement processes, and Type A behavior in children.