Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Carl N. Sipprella

Committee Members

William O. Jenkins, Kenneth R. Newton, Virgil E. Long, Lawrence M. DeRidder


In general there are three reasons for the study: (1) to test a specific hypothesis as deduced from a particular theoretical position, the generalization hypothesis, that resistance to weakening influences is a function of the similarity between acquisition and weakening phases, (2) to compare and to contrast the influences of various experimental operations in weakening a learned response, (3) to compare two groups of people who are believed to respond different to traditional methods of strengthening and weakening behaviors.

There is general agreement that much, if not most, of human behavior is learned. As the infant matures he meets new problems at each stage of development and ways of handling these problems are learned. On reaching adulthood the human has faced many problems and has many learned solutions in his repertoire of responses. If the solutions are adequate and the world static, then the human would be perfectly adapted at all times. However, there are two important restrictions: adequate solutions and a never changing world. An adequate solution would seem to involve at least some satisfaction for the learner feels are important in his surroundings. Nevertheless, inadequate solutions may be learned producing censure from other people and/or discomfort and maladaptation for the learner. In addition, the world is not static but ever changing. New problems emerge demanding new solutions or old problems may change and require different solutions. If the old solution does not interfere with the learning of a new solution, then the learner will make the change quickly and with only minimum discomfort. However, if the old solution interferes with the learning of a new solution, the learner may be incapable of solving the problem or do so with difficulty. Thus he may experience much discomfort, depending upon the importance of the problem and necessity for a solution. When this situation occurs, the learner may require help in solving his problem. Such help would seem to involve identification of the learning difficulty followed by selection of the most effective technique to undo the old learning and hasten new learning or solutions. This paper will attempt to shed some light on the effectiveness of various methods of weakening learned behavior.

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