Reinforcement history of modelled behaviour as a determinant of children's interpretation of vicarious nonreaction

Kay Bussey*, David G. Perry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study was designed to determine the effect of vicarious nonreaction on children's imitation of responses with previous reinforcement histories. First and third grade boys and girls initially observed an adult model who was rewarded for responses sharing a common attribute and punished for responses sharing a different attribute. Subsequently, the model performed new instances of each of these response classes. Now one‐third of the model's responses of each sort were rewarded, another third punished, and a final third incurred nonreaction. Children were tested for imitation of the responses the model made during this latter phase. It was hypothesized that children would endow nonreaction with the same sign of reinforcement that had previously accrued to responses of the modelled class. The hypothesis was confirmed for instances of both rewarded and punished response classes for the third graders but only for instances of the rewarded response class for the first, graders. It was concluded that theoretical accounts of children's interpretation and use of vicarious nonreaction need to take into account the previous reinforcement history of the behaviour that encounters the nonreaction. 1978 Australian Psychological Society

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-269
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1978
Externally publishedYes


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