Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Martin, Randall B.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Human behavior


The study investigated several factors influencing human vicious circle behavior. Specifically, the study examined the effects of the amount of change from acquisition to extinction conditions, the instructional set given, and several beliefs upon responding in a shock avoidance key pressing task. A total of 84 undergraduate females participated in the study where they were seated before a keyboard with five telegraph keys on it. The experiment utilized a 2 X 2 X 2 factorial design. The first manipulation was the instructional set given. Half of .the subjects were given instructions which stated a change in their responding may be expected to avoid shock. The other half received instructions which did not imply any change in their behavior was expected to avoid shock. At the start of each trial the subjects pressed the first key and a green light, the CS, went on. When the subject saw the green light she sequentially pressed the rest of the keys as fast as she could to avoid-escape the shock, the US. The second manipulation was the CS-US interval during acquisition. Subjects either had .7 seconds or 1.5 seconds from the onset of the green light to press the keys before receiving shock. Following these acquisition trials, without interruption, were the extinction trials. The last manipulation was the extinction condition. Subjects who were punished during extinction received a shock whenever they pressed the second key. For the regular extinction group the shock was turned off during extinction. After the last extinction trial the subjects completed a series of questions concerning their beliefs about the experiment. Upon completion of the questionnaire subjects were given another series of extinction trials. Results indicated that the subjects who responded the slowest during extinction were in the group which experienced a high degree of change from acquisition to extinction conditions, were punished, and were given the response alternative instructional set. The findings also indicated that the subjects who responded the least had the greatest awareness of a change in the contingency to avoid shock, and held the belief that an alternative response was expected. The results are discussed in relation to the conditioned fear hypothesis, discrimination theory, and Dulany's theory of propositional control. The findings of the study appear to support the cognitive interpretation of vicious circle behavior.


Includes bibliographical references.


vii, 84 pages




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