Posted: August 2nd, 2022

M9 Project

M9 Project

ABA 525 Applied Behavior Analysis

M9 Project x

Research about rule-governed or contingency-shaped behavior from a behavior analytic journal on The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

· Write a one-page summary on The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

· Write a second-page analysis of how rule-governed or contingency-shaped behavior is represented in the article.

1. Indicate what this tells us about the type of behavior selected

2. How does this apply to the real world?

3. How does this apply to the practice of behavior analysis?








Instructions can ov


rride the influence of programmed schedules of reinforcement. Al

though this finding has been interpreted as a limitation of reinforcement schedule control
in humans, an alternative approach considers instructional control, itself, as a phenomenon
determined by subjects’ reinforcement histories. This approach was supported in a series
of experiments that studied instructional and schedule control when instructions either
did or did not accord with the schedule of reinforcement. Experimenit I demonstrated tha


accurate instructions control discriminative performances on multiple avoidance schedules,
and that such control persists in a novel discrimination. Experiments II and III showed
that elimination of instruction-following occurs when inaccurate instructions cause sub-
jects to contact a monetary loss contingency. Experiment IV demonstrated the reinforcing
properties of accurate instructions. Skinner’s view of rule-governed behavior is consistent
with these findings, and can be extended to account for many aspects of instructional
control of human operant behavior


Key words: instructions avoidance, stimulus control, monetary loss, observing be-

havior, rule-governed behavior, adult humans

Several experiments have demonstrated that
instructions may facilitate the development of
schedule control (Baron, Kaufman, and Stau-
ber, 1969; Turner and Solomon, 19


; Wiener,
1962). For example, Ayllon and Azrin (1964),
in an experiment with institutionalized sub-
jects, were unable to obtain schedule control
until they gave instructions about the desired
response. The instructions were effective only
when the response they specified was rein-
A different result was obtained by Kaufman,

Baron, and Kopp (1966) in a laboratory set-

‘The experiments reported were part of a dissertation
submitted to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in
partial fulfillment for the requirements of the doctoral
degree. I am indebted to Alan Baron, chairman of my
committee, for his support and advice. I would like to
thank Vince Adesso, Robert T. Brown, Eugene Eisman,
Catherine Galizio, Robert Lowman, and Jessica Wirth
for their helpful comments. The research was supported
in part by the Graduate School and the College of Let-
ters and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Mil-
waukee. Thanks are due Linda Gleixner, Alan Kolski,
Cindy Krieger, Chris Scallon, Craig Wassenburg, and
Dale Wilson, who assisted in data collection. Experi-
ments I and II were presented at the Midwest As-
sociation of Behavior Analysis Annual Convention,
May, 1977, Chicago. Reprints may be obtained from
Mark Galizio, Department of Psychology, University of
North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, North
Carolina 28401.

ting. Subjects were exposed to a variable-inter-
val (VI) schedule of monetary reinforcement
and one group was given the accurate informa-
tion that money would be delivered on a V


basis. Other groups were given inaccurate
schedule instructions: either that a variable-
ratio (VR) or a fixed-interval (FI) schedule
would be in effect. The inaccurate instructions
exerted substantial control during a 3-hr
period. The effects of the schedule instructions
were just what would be expected from sub-
jects who had been exposed for many sessions
to the specified schedules, in spite of the fact
that the VI schedule was programmed for all
subjects. In a subsequent experiment, Kauf-
man et al. (1966) examined the effects of false
schedule instructions when reinforcement was
unavailable throughout the 3-hr period. Re-
sponding weakened, but was not completely
eliminated during the extinction session.
Thus, Kaufman et al. found that instructional
control was capable of overriding the contin-
gencies, a conclusion confirmed in a similar
experiment by Lippman and Meyer (19



Several features of the procedures used by
Ayllon and Azrin make direct comparison with
the Kaufman et al. and the Lippman and
Meyer experiments difficult. These latter two
studies were laboratory experiments conducted
with college students; Ayllon and Azrin


1979, 31, 53-70 NUMBER I (JANUARY)


worked with institutionalized patients. Fur-
ther, the instructions in the laboratory experi-
ments always specified that reinforcement was
dependent on responding (although some-
times, in fact, it was not); instructions in the
Ayllon and Azrin study did not directly specify
a response-outcome dependency. Another, per-
haps more important, difference was that the
laboratory experiments involved only a single,
brief session, and as Kaufman et al. pointed
out, instructional control of responding may
weaken, given sufficient exposure to the pro-
grammed contingencies.
The above findings demonstrating the im-

portance of instructional control have gen-
erated a theoretical controversy. One approach
is represented by accounts of instructional con-
trol that emphasize constructs within the do-
main of a behavioral analysis. Thus, several
accounts treat instructions as a form of dis-
criminative stimuli that are associated with
characteristic response patterns (Schutte and
Hopkins, 1970; Skinner, 1957). Other theorists
have focused on the results of the Kaufman et
al. research, and have interpreted these find-
ings as showing a limitation of reinforcement
control in humans. For example, Bandura
(1971, 1974) considered instructional variables
as vehicles of vicarious reinforcement, similar
in principle to modelling effects, and capable
of inducing expectancies that influence subse-
quent behavior. Some theorists have gone to
the extent of taking the instructional control
literature as supporting the claim that operant
conditioning has not been demonstrated in
adult humans (Brewer, 1974).
The nonbehavioral approaches to instruc-

tional control have stressed apparent weak-
nesses in the discriminative stimulus account.
For example, Dulany (19


) argued that to
provide an explanation, discriminative stimuli
must be “defined by a history in which a
stimulus gains control of a response by selec-
tive reinforcement of that response in its
presence-not by any demonstration of stimu-
lus control.” Dulany’s point is simply that the
instructions-as-discriminative-stimulus hypoth-
esis is ad hoc. The criticism can be answered
in principle by demonstrating that differential
reinforcement does influence instructional con-
trol. Dulany notes further that “one can easily
demonstrate that a subject will respond selec-
tively to an instruction he has never heard be-
fore, much less been selectively reinforced for

responding to” (pp. 3


-366, note a). Dulany’s
second criticism, the issue of control by novel
stimuli, is applicable only to a simplistic model
of discrimination learning. A number of fre-
quently studied paradigms have extended mod-
els of discrimination formation. In particular,
the matching-to-sample and oddity paradigms
demonstrate that a novel stimulus can control
behavior in a predictable, lawful way (Nevin,
1973). Accounts of these paradigms have been
developed that do not require abandoning the
principle of reinforcement. A fundamental as-
pect of such accounts is the recognition that
the controlling stimulus dimension can be
represented as a rule or concept (Skinner,
1974; Urcuioli, 1977; Urcuioli and Nevin,
1975). This type of approach may be applied to
an analysis of instructional control.
For example, consider Skinner’s (1974) dis-

tinction between contingency-shaped and rule-
governed behavior. Skinner pointed out that
rules can exert rapid control over behavior,
and that a person following instructions may
behave differently from a person who has been
exposed to the contingencies described by the
instructions. Skinner further suggested that
following instructions, heeding warnings, and
obeying laws, all examples of rule-governed
behavior, are themselves influenced by their
consequences. That is, adults have long histo-
ries of conditioning, which presumably involve
favorable consequences for following instruc-
tions. Such an analysis leads to the hypothesis
that instruction-following can be controlled by
its consequences. This is a testable hypothesis:
instruction-following should be influenced by
reinforcement, subject to extinction, and
should come under discriminative control.

This hypothesis can best be examined in the
setting of the long-term operant experiment,
where the effects of instructions can be assessed
over many sessions. If inaccurate instructions
were presented in such a setting, and these in-
structions led to loss of reinforcement, then a
general elimination of instruction-following
should occur. Alternatively, if instructions
from one source are accurate and from another
source are inaccurate, a discrimination should
be formed. Subjects should show instructional
control with the former source, but only sched-
ule control with the latter. Finally, since in-
structions are viewed in the present analysis as
a complex form of discriminative stimuli, sub-
jects should respond to produce instructions,



just as other discriminative stimuli are rein-
forcing events. The present research is an at-
tempt to examine these predictions using a
free-operant avoidance baseline with monetary
loss as the aversive event (Baron and Kauf-
man, 1968).


Before the questions involving inaccurate
instructions can be assessed, the role of ac-
curate instructions must be established. In
Experiment I, performances generated by a
simple multiple schedule were compared with
performances when accurate schedule instruc-
tions were added. Multiple schedules permit
the simultaneous analysis of several different
temporal parameters, with and without in-
structions that specify those parameters.



Two male (CB and MB) and four female

(CH, DH, WH, and PR) students enrolled at
the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee par-
ticipated. All were between the ages of 18 and
25 yr and had no more than introductory level
exposure to psychology. They were recruited
by a campus employment advertisement, which
depicted the research as a part-time job in
which payment depended on performance.
Subjects were informed that average earnings
were about $1.80 per 50-min session, but that
they could earn as much as $2.00, or as little
as nothing at all in a given session. All sub-
jects signed contracts agreeing to remain in the
experiment for a minimum of 75 sessions, or
until dismissed, and participated in a simu-
lated session before signing the contract. Once
the contract was signed, the experiment began.
Sessions were scheduled at a rate of eight to 1


per week, each 50 min in duration, with a
maximum of four sessions per day.

The subjects worked in a well-lighted,

sound-attenuated room, 1.8 m square. They sat
facing a table holding a vertical panel contain-
ing the lever manipulandum and an array of
colored lights. Six lights were spaced evenly

across the top of the panel. The leftmost light
was green, and indicated when the session was
in progress. The rightmost light was red, and
served as a signal of monetary loss. The onset
of the red light was always accompanied by a
tone (1000 Hz, 76 dB) presented through a
speaker beneath the table to ensure that the
losses were noted.
The middle four lights were amber, and

served as the discriminative and instructional
stimuli for the components of the multiple
schedule. A cardboard label could be inserted
above each light.
The manipulandum was mounted on a shaft

protruding from the face of the panel just
above the table. A 10-cm lever was attached
to the shaft and covered with a rubber hand-
grip. The lever rested in the vertical position,
but could be rotated 900 in either direction.
The avoidance response was a 450 clockwise
lever turn, which required 23 N of force. Com-
pletion of the response produced a 0.5-sec
blue feedback light just to the right of the
lever whenever a 450 turn was accomplished.
Programming and recording equipment were
located in an adjacent room, sound-insulated
from the subject.

Preliminary orientation. Before the first ex-

perimental session, each subject read a written
description of various aspects of the experi-
mental situation. Subjects were informed that
books and magazines, but not purses or packs,
or writing materials could be brought into the
work area. Further instructions described the
functions of the session light, the loss light and
tone, and the lever. They were told that each
time the loss light came on, they would lose
five cents from their earnings, which would
otherwise amount to $2.00 during that session.
Finally, they were informed that turning the
lever to the right would postpone the onset of
the loss light:

By turning the handle to the right, you
can postpone the next presentation of the
red light. Sometimes the response will
postpone the red light for only 10 seconds,
sometimes for longer, and there may be
times when you do not need to turn the
handle at all because no red lights are pro-
grammed. Remember, all you have to do
is to turn the handle to the right, and you



will postpone the red light for some
period of time.

The four-ply baseline schedule. Throughout
the experiment, the same baseline schedule
was programmed for all subjects. The schedule
was composed of three 12.5-min free-operant
avoidance schedules, each with a different re-
sponse-loss interval, and a fourth 12.5-min
component in which no loss was programmed.
On the three avoidance components, 1-sec dis-
plays of the red loss light accompanied by the
tone were scheduled every 10 sec (the loss-loss
interval was always 10 sec). Each response post-
poned the next loss for either 10, 30, or


depending on the component. Each compo-
nent was presented once per session in random

Discriminative and instructional stimuli.
Four of the six subjects (CB, PR, DH, and CH)
were first exposed to the four-ply schedule with
no instructions. The signal lights were ar-
ranged to provide a simple multiple schedule,
and no information was added about the
schedules signalled by any of the stimuli. The
leftmost amber light was associated with the
No-Loss component, the second light with the
10-sec response-loss interval, the third with the
30-sec interval, and the fourth with the 60-sec
The next phase of the experiment for Sub-

jects CB, PR, DH, and CH, involved the ad-
dition of instructional labels to the multiple
schedule. The schedules signalled by the four
amber lights were shuffled so that the leftmost
light signalled the 30-sec interval, the second
light the 10-sec interval, the third the 60-sec
interval, and the fourth, No Loss. Labelled
cards were inserted above the four amber lights
in this phase. The label for each light accu-
rately described the temporal properties of that
schedule. The label above the light signalling
the 10-sec interval read: “10 SEC”, the label
above the 30-sec and 60-sec schedule lights
read “30 SEC”, and “60 SEC”, respectively.
The label above the No-Loss schedule light
read “NO LOSS”.

In the third phase, lights and components
were shuffled and the instruction labels with-
drawn. Since Subject DH showed good dis-
crimination of the component schedules with-
out instructions, the second exposure without
instructions was eliminated in her case.
The procedures for the remaining two sub-

jects, MB and WH, were the same, except that
the first condition was with instructions added
to the multiple schedule. Then, the stimuli
were shuffled and instructions withdrawn. Sub-
ject WH went through this sequence twice.

Stability criteria. To determine when stable
performance was reached, stability indices were
calculated for rate of responding in each com-
ponent (Sidman, 1960). The criterion to be
met before changing conditions was as follows:
the difference between the rate for the last two
and the immediately preceding two sessions
had to be less than 15% of the mean rate for
the four sessions. Before advancing to a new
condition, stability was required in each of the
four components of the multiple schedule,
with a maximum of 15 sessions in any com-
ponent. When responding approached zero in
the No-Loss component, and when conditions
were repeated, visual inspection of the data de-
termined when conditions could be changed.

Response rate in each of the components

across sessions is presented in Figure 1 for
Subjects DH, PR, CB, and CH, the four sub-
jects whose initial exposure to the four-ply
multiple schedule was without instructions.
The first panel of Figure 1 shows the subjects’
initial performances, and reveals that all sub-
jects avoided regularly in their initial session,
although rates were somewhat inconsistent and
fluctuated from session to session in the early
phases of training. Rates tended to stabilize
after four to six sessions, although Subject CH
did not reach the stability criterion by the fif-
teenth session. The terminal performances of
all four subjects revealed highly successful
avoidance. During the last four sessions, Sub-
ject DH received two losses, Subject CH, three
losses, Subject PR, two, and Subject CB, none.
Without instructions, only one subject, DH,

discriminated among all four components of
the multiple schedule. By her third session, she
showed a relatively high rate in the 10-sec com-
ponent, a near-zero rate in the No-Loss com-
ponent, and intermediate, appropriate rates in
the 30- and 60-sec components. The other three
subjects showed little indication of discrimina-
tive control. The terminal performance of Sub-
ject CB shows completely undifferentiated re-
sponding in the four components, Subjects CH
and PR showed some evidence of stimulus con-
trol, emitting higher rates in the 10-sec compo-






i I i I




– –




I-A&II I -i iiIII I I



30 SEC,A
60 SEC* DH


iii ai AAAAAAAAAAA lip

9 A a a In I 0 ,IeA .C a IYt.V I 1′ – 4 6 a 10 2 4 6 8 10

Fig. 1. Responses per minute across the four components for conditions of Experiment I. Shown are the four

subjects whose initial exposure was without instructions.

nent than in the other three, but rates in the
30-sec, 60-sec, and No-Loss components were

Figure 1 also shows the effects of introduc-
ing the instructional labels. In the case of the

three subjects who had not previously shown
complete discriminative control, PR, CB, and
CH, the addition of instructions had major
effects. Discrimination among all four com-
ponents was evident within the first instruction





_j L I ^ n Jo I














a I a a I a A *-
. .

s * * * . s II










10 SEC

30 SEC

60 SEC


10 SEC

7 3OSEC/000″,~ ~ %,~~ – .
bU b-L

Fig. 2. Cumulative records from Experiment I for Subjects CH and CB. Performances with no instructions (NI)

are shown in the top records; the lower records show performances with instructions (I). Pen deflection indicates
the delivery of monetary loss.

session. Rates fell in the No-Loss component
to near zero, while rates in the 30-sec and 60-
sec components became well differentiated and
more consistent with the programmed re-
sponse-loss interval. Although rates, in general,
were reduced with instructions, the actual
number of losses was as in the earlier phase:
DH=3, CH=4, CB=1, and PR=I total losses,
for the last four instruction sessions.
Cumulative records for Subjects CH and

CB (Figure 2) further clarify the effects of in-
structions. Rates without instructions were
high, undifferentiated, and regular, but be-
came differentiated with instructions. Differ-

ential rates remained regular, with pauses after
responding in the 30-sec and 60-sec compo-
nents indicating development of temporal con-
To examine the after-effects of instructions,

the three subjects who had not shown discrim-
inative control without instructions were re-
turned to the initial discrimination. Although
the schedules paired with the lights had been
shuffled, and the instructions withdrawn, Sub-
jects CB and PR showed clear lasting effects of
instructions. For CB, response rates (shown in
Fig. 1) remained virtually unchanged. The
stimulus shuffling was detected rapidly and




there was a rapid adjustment to the new stimu-
lus-schedule pairings. Subject CH, however,
appeared unaffected by the prior exposure to
the instructions. After instructions were with-
drawn, her rates quickly returned to those ob-
served in her initial exposure to the discrim-

Subjects WH and MB provide an additional
analysis of the after-effects of instructions,
since they were trained first with instructions
and then switched to the uninstructed condi-
tion. Figure 3 presents rates of responding for
these two subjects. Acquisition of the avoid-
ance response was rapid, and instructional con-
trol developed in the first session for both sub-
When the schedules were shuffled, and the

instructions withdrawn, Subject MB rapidly
acquired the new discrimination. Subject WH,
however, showed no sign of forming the new
discrimination. Instructions were inserted
again for Subject WH, and as Figure 3 shows,
differentiated performance was quickly re-es-
tablished. After four sessions with instructions,
WH was returned to the multiple schedule
without instructions, but the discriminative
stimuli signalling the various schedules were
not shuffled. Nevertheless, when the instruc-
tions were withdrawn, the discrimination
broke down. Apparently, WH’s differential
performances were under the exclusive control
of the instructions and when they were with-
drawn, the light-schedule correlation, itself,
exerted no control.



2 4 6 8 10 12 14


-A A A A A A




10 SEC 0
30 SEC ,


2 4 6 8 10 2 4 2 4

Fig. 3. Responses per minute across the four components for the conditions of Experiment I. Shown are the two

subjects whose initial exposure was with instructions.








– – – – – – – – – .-.-.AL ” AL



The results illustrate the control that in-

structions can exert over human operant be-
havior, and extend the analysis of instructional
control to the study of behavior generated by
avoidance schedules and to the case where in-
structions are varied within a single session.
The preliminary instructions, which specified
that responding affected the delivery of loss,
were sufficient to induce regular avoidance al-
most immediately for all subjects. Even with
prolonged exposure to the contingencies,
though, only one subject showed discrimina-
tion among the four components of the multi-
ple schedule without instructions. These find-
ings agree with previous studies of human
performances on multiple schedules (Baron et
al., 1969) in showing poor schedule control
without instructions and more appropriately
differentiated rates when instructions are
The present experiment further analyzed

the effects of instructions, since following the
acquisition of instructional control, subjects
were studied with a reshuffled multiple sched-
ule without instructions. Three of the five sub-
jects studied learned the discrimination. For
these subjects, learning a discrimination with
the aid of instructions facilitated learning a
new discrimination without instructions. The
mechanism of this facilitation is unclear. Per-
haps instructions alerted subjects to the range
of the programmed contingencies, or to the sig-
nal functions of the stimulus lights. The pic-
ture is complicated by the performance of
Subjects CH and WH, who showed no lasting
after-effects of instructions.


In Experiment I, the instructions always ac-

corded with the schedule, and instructional
control occurred. Experiment II assessed the
effects of inaccurate instructions. Given the
present procedures, at least two types of in-
accurate instructions are possible. One type
evokes behavior that leads to point loss, while
another type evokes behavior that leads to no
clear aversive consequence. In Experiment II,
subjects were studied under conditions where
behavior evoked by inaccurate instructions led

either to programmed loss (Contact), or to no
aversive consequence (No Contact). In the No-
Contact condition, the four-ply schedule of
Experiment I was transformed to a No-Loss
schedule in all four components, while leaving
the discriminative and instructional stimuli
intact. The instructions were inaccurate under
these conditions, but the subject who con-
tinued to follow them did not come into con-
tact with the discrepancy. The results of the
Kaufman et al. (1966) study suggest that con-
trol should persist. The behavior should re-
main identical to that observed when the
point-loss contingencies with accurate instruc-
tions were in effect. An alternative possibility
is that with extended exposure to inaccurate
instructions, behavior may eventually come
under schedule control.

In the Contact condition, an avoidance
schedule with a response-loss interval of 10 sec
was programmed in all four components.
Again, the instructional and discriminative
stimuli were left intact. Thus, conditions were
established in which instruction following led
to losses. Under these conditions, instruction
following was expected to decline. Finally, the
No-Contact conditions were reinstated after
subjects were exposed to the Contact condi-

Subjects and Apparatus

Four of the subjects studied in Experiment
1, MB, CH, DH, and WH, participated. The
apparatus and general protocol were un-

The last condition of Experiment I was the

four-ply multiple schedule without instruc-
tions. To recover instructional control, the
first phase of Experiment II was a return to the
four-ply schedule with accurate instructions.
After at least two sessions with instructional
control, subjects were studied under the No-
Contact condition. The loss programmer was
turned off, but the stimulus lights with their
accompanying labels still signalled the multi-
ple schedule (reshuffled from the last phase of
Experiment I). Again, the component duration
was 12.5 min, and the lights appeared once per
session in random order. The stability criteria
were the same as in Experiment I, except that
a minimum of eight sessions was required to



permit the observation of relatively long-term

After stability was reached with the No-Con-
tact condition, the Contact condition was in-
troduced. The Contact condition involved the
same sequence of lights and labels as the No-
Contact condition, but each of the four com-
ponents was an avoidance schedule with a


±L L L L|

%. –

v v v v. v AAAA

response-loss interval of 10 sec. Finally, sub-
jects were returned to the No-Contact condi-
tion, where all components were No Loss.

The leftmost panel of Figure 4 shows per-

formances on the four-ply schedule with accu-
rate instructions. The instructional control

(10 SEC)

I lIlI I l l


i CH





I10 SEC °30 SEC A
60 SEC –


2 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 2 4 6 8 10 12 2 4 6 8

Fig. 4. Responses per minute across the four components for the various conditions of Experiment II.










. ^~~~~


observed in Experiment I was rapidly rees-
tablished. The second panel shows perform-
ances under the No-Contact conditions, when
no point-loss was programmed in any com-
ponent. In spite of the withdrawal of the
avoidance contingency, subjects remained un-
der instructional control. Response rates in the
four components were virtually identical to
those in the previous phase. Throughout the
eight sessions of No-Contact exposure for Sub-
jects CH and DH, the 11 sessions for Subject
WH, and the 14 sessions for Subject MB, there
was no trend toward reduction in rates.
Rather, differentiated rates and temporal con-
trol were observed throughout.
The third panel of Figure 4 shows per-

formances in the Contact condition, where the
10-sec response-loss interval was in effect in
all components. There was an immediate
breakdown of instructional control for all four
subjects. Rates were equivalent across com-
ponents as early as the first session, and stabil-
ized at the levels previously associated only
with the 10-sec response-loss interval. Thus,
responding in the Contact condition was con-
trolled by the programmed avoidance sched-
ule, not by the instructions. Accompanying
exposure to the Contact conditions was an in-
crease in losses. During the initial sessions,
loss rates were higher than at any other point
in the experiment, but by the final four ses-
sions, subjects were again avoiding well: CH=
5, DH=4, WH=O, and MB=13 total losses
during the last four sessions.
A key question in Experiment II was

whether the elimination of instructional con-
trol would persist after the Contact condition
was removed. As the fourth panel of Figure 4
shows, instruction-following did not reappear
in any subject during the second exposure to
the No-Contact condition. The rates of three of
the four subjects declined, appropriately to the
No-Loss schedule, while those of the fourth
subject, WH, were high and undifferentiated
characteristic of performance under the im-
mediately preceding condition. Extinction was
abrupt for Subjects MB and DH; the high
rates seen during the Contact condition were
reduced to near zero within two sessions. Rate
reductions for Subject CH were more gradual,
with rates dropping to about three responses
per minute during the first three sessions and
stabilizing at that level. The high rates gener-
ated by the Contact condition persisted for

Subject WH, whose rates showed no sign of
declining after nine sessions. In spite of Sub-
ject WH’s lack of adjustment to the contingen-
cies, there was no evidence for reinstatement
of instructional control; the undifferen-
tiated rates observed here were in marked con-
trast to her performance during the initial ex-
posure to the No-Contact condition.

The results showed the role of contact with

schedule-instruction discrepancies in weaken-
ing instructional control. In the No-Contact
condition, the four instruction labels were
superimposed on a No-Loss schedule. Instruc-
tion-following under these conditions led to
unnecessary responding, but because no losses
were received, instructional control was main-
tained with no sign of weakening. However, in
the Contact condition, when instruction-fol-
lowing led to exposure to the loss contingency,
instructional control was rapidly eliminated.
The elimination of instruction-following per-
sisted when the No-Contact condition was rein-
stated. This last finding is particularly impor-
tant, since it shows that subject reactions to the
instructions were irreversibly altered after ex-
posure to the Contact condition. Subjects now
“disbelieve” the instructions, and the schedule
assumes control of behavior. But contact with
schedule-instruction discrepancies is necessary
for the elimination of instruction-following,
not simply the existence of such a discrepancy.
Instruction-following is controlled by its con-
Although control by the avoidance contin-

gencies developed rapidly in the Contact con-
dition, it was not always maintained. Subject
MB nearly ceased responding during Sessions
4 and 5, which is difficult to understand, either
in terms of the instructions or the contingen-
cies. The transitory nature of this reaction sug-
gest that it may have represented an emotional
response to the increased monetary loss during
the early stages of the loss of instructional con-
Control by the contingencies was also evi-

dent when subjects were switched from the
Contact condition back to the No-Contact con-
dition. Three of the four subjects showed re-
ductions in response rate and two subjects, MB
and DH, stopped responding altogether within
three sessions. Subject WH, however, showed
no reduction in rates during this period. While



her performance revealed no indication of in-
structional control, her high and undifferen-
tiated rate of responding showed a lack of ad-
justment to the No-Loss schedule. Perhaps the
notion of contact may be invoked here also,
since in WH’s terminal performance during
the Contact condition no losses were en-
countered. Such successful avoidance perform-
ance may insulate the subject from the con-
tingencies (Baron and Galizio, 1976), just as
instruction-following in the No-Contact con-
dition did, thus rendering the response highly


An important property of operant behavior

is that it can be brought under discriminative
control with differential reinforcement pro-
cedures. If instructional control is influenced
by subjects’ reinforcement histories, then a
stimulus associated with the elimination of in-
structional control should come to inhibit in-
struction following. If instructions remain ac-
curate in the presence of some other stimulus,
so that instruction-following is reinforced, that
stimulus should control a high probability of
instruction-following. In Experiment III, these
possibilities were tested by programming two
novel stimuli in conjunction with the four in-
structional stimuli. In the presence of the
other stimulus, the instructions were inaccu-
rate, first under the No-Contact condition,
then under the Contact condition, and finally,
again under the No-Contact condition.

Subjects and Apparatus
Two male subjects, SS and BK, served. The

apparatus was the same, except that two new
stimulus lights, purple and orange, were added
to the panel just below the amber stimulus

The four amber lights plus instructions were

presented concurrently with either of two
novel stimuli. The presence of the orange light
characterized the four different avoidance com-
ponents of Experiment I with the instructions
always accurate (Sa). In the presence of the
purple light, the instructions were inaccurate

(Si), first with the No-Contact condition (i.e.,
no loss in any component), then with the Con-
tact condition (i.e., Response-loss interval of
10 sec in all components), and finally, with the
No-Contact condition again. Each stimulus
combination and its associated component oc-
curred once per session, for 6.25 min, in ran-
dom order. Thus, in each session subjects were
exposed to each instruction twice, once in the
presence of Sa, and once in the presence of Si.

Figure 5 shows performances of Subjects


and SS during Experiment III. For each condi-
tion, rates in the presence of Sa are presented
in the panel to the left of rates in the presence
of Si.
The first panel of Figure 5 shows perform-

ances when the four instructions were accurate
during Sa and the No-Contact condition pre-
vailed during Si. Both subjects showed in-
structional control in the presence of both Sa
and Si, with no reduction of rates in the Si
components despite the No-Loss schedule.
The middle panel of Figure 5 shows the

effects of introducing the Contact condition in
the presence of Si. Instructional control was
immediately eliminated in the presence of Si,
but not in the presence of Sa. Both subjects
rapidly increased responding to the same level
in all Si components. There was an early break-
down in the precision of instructional control
for both subjects in the Sa components. For
example, both subjects showed moderate rates
of responding in the Sa-No-Loss component
during the first session, although before the
Contact condition was introduced, both had
near-zero rates in this component. This “dis-
inhibition” was transient, lasting no more than
a few sessions. The terminal performances
show clearly that avoidance responding was un-
der instructional control in the presence of Sa,
and controlled by the response-loss interval in
the presence of Si.
The outcome of the second exposure to the

No-Contact conditions in Si is shown in the
right panel of Figure 5. Unlike the initial ex-
posure to the No-Contact condition, both
subjects quickly adjusted to the No-Loss sched-
ule programmed in the Si components. Both
stopped responding in the Si components
within three sessions. Although instruction-
following ceased in the Si components, it con-
tinued in the Sa components.



Sa Si

Sa i Si



I Si






6 2 4 6 2 4 6

Fig. 5. Responses per minute for Subjects BK and SS for the various conditions of Experiment III. For each con-

dition, responding in the Sa and Si components are presented separately.

Experiment III showed that instruction-

following can be brought under discriminative
control. In the first phase, where instructions
remained accurate in Sa, but No-Contact in-
accuracies were introduced in Si, both subjects
maintained differentiated rates and persisted
in responding in spite of the No-Loss schedule
programmed in Si. When the 10-sec loss condi-
tion was introduced in Si, instruction-follow-
ing was eliminated in that component, but al-
though temporarily disrupted, persisted in Sa,
where instructions remained accurate. The
stimulus control of instruction-following per-
sisted when subjects were returned to the No-
Contact condition in Si. Both subjects showed
rapid extinction of avoidance responding in all
Si components, in spite of the contradictory
suggestion to respond provided by the instruc-

tions. Performances in the Sa components re-
mained unaffected.


Wyckoff (1969) showed the reinforcing prop-
erties of simple discriminative stimuli by ex-
amining concurrent schedules in pigeons,
where one response was reinforced with food,
and another was maintained by the onset of
discriminative stimuli signalling when food
was available. Baron and Galizio (1976), using
a similar procedure, showed that an observing
response was maintained by human subjects
when it produced time-correlated stimuli on
an avoidance or Fl baseline. Experiment IV
adapted the Wyckoff procedure, where observ-
ing converts a mixed schedule to a multiple












I c
I %.

. A A A A I


schedule, for use with humans, with instruc-
tions rather than simple discriminative stimuli.

In Experiment IV, subjects were exposed to
the same four-ply avoidance schedule as previ-
ously, but the lights with instruction labels
were not illuminated unless an observing re-
sponse was emitted. The prediction was that
observing would be maintained under such
conditions. However, in a later phase, the Con-
tact condition was combined with the response-
dependent instructions. Since the instructions
did not provide accurate information during
this condition, observing was expected to

Two of the subjects from Experiment 1, PR

and CB, were studied in Experiment IV, and a
third subject, a female student (GW), was
added to the experiment.

The apparatus was the same as before, ex-

cept that turning the lever to the left, which
previously had no effect, was designated the
observing response.

The four-ply schedule with added, accurate,

instructions used in Experiment I, was pro-
grammed throughout most of Experiment IV.
However, the signal lights were no longer re-
sponse independent. Rather, a counter-clock-
wise turn of the lever (450, 23 N of force) was
required to produce the lights. During various
phases of the experiment, the observing re-
sponses produced the lights for 10, 20, or 30
sec. For Subjects CB and PR, a descending se-
quence was used. Since Subject GW was naive
to the situation, her behavior was stabilized
with response-independent instructions before
her exposure to the response-dependent in-
structions. An ascending sequence of display
durations was then used. Two-session stability
criteria were used to determine length of ex-
posure to the various conditions. In order to
ensure that constant-component durations
did not provide cues to the programmed com-
ponent, variable-duration components were
used in Experiment IV, with a mean duration
of 5 min. When subjects had completed the
sequence of display durations, the observing
response was made ineffective; that is, the in-

struction lights were no longer displayed con-
sequent on an observing response. Thus, sub-
jects were exposed to a mixed schedule during
the Observing Extinction phase.
In order to recover observing behavior after

the Observing Extinction phase, subjects were
returned to the response-dependent instruc-
tions conditions with a 10-sec display duration.
After stability was reached, the baseline sched-
ule was altered so that a response-loss interval
of 10-sec was programmed in all components,
but instructions varied as before and were re-
sponse-dependent with a 10-sec display dura-
tion. This was the Contact condition of Ex-
periments II and III, but the instructions were
response-dependent, instead of response-inde-

Immediately after Experiment I for Sub-
jects CB and PR and immediately after stabil-
ity was reached with the response-dependent
instructions for Subject GW, the following
typewritten instructions were presented to the

Starting today, things will be somewhat
different, the four amber lights will no
longer automatically come on. However,
if you want to see the amber lights, you
can turn them on by turning the handle
to the left. Turning the handle to the left
will produce the amber lights for a period
of time.

Table 1 and Figure 6 summarize the results

of Experiment IV. In Table 1, mean responses
per minute for the last two sessions of each
condition are presented. Subject GW showed
instructional control when instructions were
response independent, and all three subjects
showed instructional control with the intro-
duction of the observing contingency, and
through the various display durations. The
basis for the instructional control was high and
regular rates of observing shown by all three
subjects. Figure 6 shows observing rates for the
last two sessions at each display duration, and
rates were maintained at all three durations,
and were inversely related to the duration of
the display. However, the actual time the dis-
play was presented was less, in spite of the
higher observing rates, in the 10-sec compo-
nent. For Subject PR, the display was on 75%
of the session during the 10-sec display condi-





3 h

10 SEC



* IF


Fig. 6. Observing responses per minute for the three subjects of Experiment IV. Data points represent mean per-

formance for the last two sessions of each condition.

tions, compared to 83% during the 20-sec and responding on the mixed schedule generated
30-sec display conditions. Similar results were by these conditions was less well differentiated,
obtained for Subjects GW and CB, who pro- although, as Table 1 shows, all three subjects
duced the display during, respectively, 33% tended to show higher rates in the 10-sec com-
and 28% of the 10-sec sessions, 40% and 45% ponent. Subjects tended to receive more losses
of the 20-sec sessions, and 45% and 45% of during these conditions: CB=7, PR=12, and
the 30-sec sessions. As in the previous experi- GW=9, for the last two sessions of Avoidance
ments, there were few losses: five for CB, 10 Extinction.
for PR, and seven for GW, during the last All three subjects showed rapid recovery of
two sessions of the 10-sec display condition. observing when the observing dependency was
When the Observing Extinction conditions reinstated with a 10-sec display duration, and

were introduced, observing rates dropped to this was accompanied by a reinstatement of in-
near zero in all three subjects, and avoidance structional control (although the reinstate-


4 r


Table 1

Mean avoidance responses per minute for the last two
sessions of the conditions of Experiment IV.


Conditions GW CB PR

Response-independent 10 sec 7.6 – –
instructions 30 sec 3.5 – –

60 sec 2.4 – –
EXT 0.2 – –

Response-dependent 10 sec 8.9 9.8 10.1
instructions: 30 sec 3.4 4.2 2.9
10-sec display 60 sec 2.1 2.0 1.5

EXT 0.0 0.0 0.0
Observing extinction 10 sec 6.5 9.5 9.0

30sec 4.5 6.9 8.8
60 sec 4.3 7.3 3.7
EXT 3.4 8.6 4.4

Response-dependent 10 sec 7.5 9.6 11.7
inaccurate 30 sec 8.1 8.6 12.0
instructions: 60 sec 7.6 9.0 12.3
10-sec display EXT 7.9 7.6 12.1

ment was uninstructed). When the Contact
condition was introduced, instruction-follow-
ing was eliminated, and as Figure 6 shows, ob-
serving responses were near zero in all three
subjects during this condition.

When accurate instructions depended on

an observing response, observing was readily
acquired. The functional relationship between
the display duration and the rate of observing
supported the conclusion that the instructional
stimuli were the source of reinforcement for
the observing response. Further support was
provided by the rapid extinction of observing
when the response no longer produced the in-
structions. Finally, the elimination of observ-
ing when the instructions were no longer ac-
curate shows that instructions were reinforcing
only when avoidance behavior was under in-
structional control. These results thus support
the view of instructions as discriminative
stimuli, in the sense that both instructions
and simple discriminative stimuli can serve as
reinforcers in the observing paradigm. Of ad-
ditional interest was the rapid loss of instruc-
tional control when the Contact condition was
introduced, once again demonstrating that in-
struction-following is controlled by its conse-
The source of the reinforcing properties of

discriminative stimuli has long been of theo-
retical interest. One explanation, which has

found support in infra-human studies with ob-
serving procedures, is that the reinforcing
properties are acquired through direct classical
conditioning. This explanation appears un-
likely in the present context. Although sub-
jects received slightly fewer losses with the in-
structions, the differences were quite small. An
alternative viewpoint is that discriminative
stimuli are reinforcing because they permit
more efficient behavior. Certainly in the pres-
ent study, the addition of instructions resulted
in fewer avoidance responses overall, but when
the additional effort of the observing response
is considered, especially with the 10-sec dis-
play duration, total work for two of the three
subjects actually increased with instructions.
This increased effort is clearly seen when
avoidance response rates obtained in the Ob-
serving Extinction condition (GW=4.7, CB=
8.0, PR=6.5 responses per minute overaged
across components) are compared with total
responding (observing and avoidance) in the
10-sec display conditions (GW=6.9, CB=7.0,
and PR=8.1 responses per minute averaged
across components). Thus, the most viable hy-
pothesis regarding the reinforcing properties
of instructions is the information hypothesis
(Hendry, 1969), which asserts that stimuli that
reduce uncertainty about forthcoming events
are reinforcing. The instructions provided in-
formation about the schedule then in effect,
and this may have been sufficient to establish
them as reinforcers.


Taken together, the four experiments sup-
port the view of instructional control as in-
volving rule-governed behavior, and illustrate
mechanisms by which subjects’ reinforcement
histories influence subsequent rule-governed
behaviors. The rapid induction of avoidance
by the preliminary instructions and the initia-
tion of discriminative control by the instruc-
tional labels in Experiment I were consistent
with Skinner’s (1974) analysis of the properties
of rule-governed behavior. Instructional con-
trol was shown to be influenced by the conse-
quences of following instructions (Experiment
II). Given differential reinforcement, instruc-
tion-following was brought under stimulus con-
trol (Experiment III). Finally, instructions
were shown to possess reinforcing properties, a



characteristic shared by simple discriminative
stimuli (Experiment IV).
The view of instructional control as rule-

governed behavior that is controlled by its con-
sequences both explains the present findings,
and accounts for much of the literature re-
viewed earlier. Studies showing that instruc-
tions facilitate the acquisition of schedule con-
trol (cf. Baron, Kaufman, and Stauber, 1969;
Scobie and Kaufman, 1969; Turner and Solo-
mon, 1962) can be incorporated into the pres-
ent framework by positing that instructional
control is at high strength when subjects first
enter a psychology experiment. This assump-
tion is warranted by the present results, as well
as by research on the social psychology of the
psychology experiment (Orne, 1962). Thus,
when instructions are presented that specify re-
sponses relevant to the experiment, subjects
execute those behaviors, and may give the ap-
pearance of having come under schedule con-

Consider now the case where inaccurate in-
structions have been studied. These studies
have yielded particularly awkward results from
the perspective of the reinforcement theorist.
In one of the experiments reported by Kauf-
man et al. (1966), some subjects were instructed
that monetary reinforcement was available on
an Fl basis, and others were told that it was
programmed on a VR schedule. Although the
actual schedule of reinforcement was a VI,
both groups behaved as specified by the in-
structions: subjects given VR instructions re-
sponded at high rates, while those given Fl
instructions showed scalloping. However, in-
structional inaccuracies in the Kaufman et al.
experiment are most analogous to the No-Con-
tact inaccuracies of the present research. On
the schedules programmed in the Kaufman et
al. study, responding at a high rate or showing
a scalloped response pattern was frequently
reinforced, so there was never contact with the
schedule-instruction discrepancy. The present
results showed that instruction control can be
maintained indefinitely when such contact is
absent. A similar analysis of the Lippman and
Meyer (1967) study, where subjects were given
VR instructions but reinforcement was sched-
uled on an Fl basis, reveals that no contact
with the schedule-instruction discrepancy need
have occurred. Thus, the Kaufman et al. ex-
periment, as well as the Lippman and Meyer
study, can be understood in terms of the per-

sistence of instructional control in the absence
of contact with schedule-instruction discrep-
One difficult finding for the present model

is the third experiment by Kaufman et al.,
where subjects were exposed to a single session
in which no monetary reinforcement was pro-
grammed, but were given instructions that a
VR schedule was in effect. These conditions
resemble the Contact conditions of the present
study, and as expected, there was some weaken-
ing of instructional control in this phase of
the Kaufman et al. study. However, the break-
down of instructional control was neither as
complete or as rapid as that observed in the
present study. But on the avoidance baseline,
subjects that persisted in following instructions
experienced immediate loss, while on the ex-
tinction schedule of Kaufman et al., although
instruction-following did not lead to reinforce-
ment, it was not punished. Perhaps with the
less-aversive consequences of continued in-
struction-following in the Kaufman et al.
study, more than a single session would be re-
quired to extinguish instructional control com-
pletely. Indeed, Ayllon and Azrin (1964) found
that instructional control was weakened greatly
over sessions with a similar procedure.
The present findings have considerable im-

plications for the analysis of human operant
behavior. For the researcher studying the sim-
ple operant behavior of adult humans, caution
seems indicated. Since some verbal interaction
between subject and experimenter is nearly un-
avoidable, care is needed to ensure that the be-
havior under examination is under schedule,
and not instructional control. Mathews, Shim-
off, Catania, and Sagvolden (1977) suggested
that inadvertant instructional control may ac-
count for many cases of poor schedule control
in humans (Streifel, 1972; Schmitt, 1974; Wei-
ner, 1970). Thus, in cases where schedule con-
trol of simple responses is of interest, minimal
instructions should be employed.
The analysis of instructional control itself

warrants more study. The rapid acquisition of
discriminative control with instructions, and
its persistence when instructions were with-
drawn, demonstrates the power of instruc-
tional control. But such persistence of control
does not always lead to more efficient behavior,
as was forcefully demonstrated in the initial
No-Contact exposures of the present research.
Under these conditions, steady rates of avoid-



ance responding were maintained for many ses-
sions in spite of the uniform No-Loss contin-
gency. Other instances where human behavior
is apparently in discord with the prevailing
contingencies may be explained by the per-
sistence of instructional control (cf. Herrn-
stein’s, 1966, analysis of human superstitions).
The finding that instruction-following may

be brought under external stimulus control
may have particular implications for the analy-
sis of social behavior. Consider the instructions
presented in Experiment III as verbal state-
ments or appeals originating from different
sources. After the experience of the contact
condition, the probability is low tIat com-
munications from the inaccurate souiPce would
influence other’s behavior. On the other hand,
the present subjects continued to follow in-
structions in the presence of the stimulus as-
sociated with accurate instructions. Bandura
(1969) argued that communicator’s influence
depends on the likelihood that the source’s be-
havioral recommendations will lead to favor-
able consequences. The present research sup-
ports Bandura, and its methodology might be
profitably used for further examination of such
The present analysis provided a behavioral

account of some of the phenomena associated
with instructional control. The potency of in-
structional control can be interpreted not as
a limitation of reinforcement control of hu-
man behavior (cf. Brewer, 1974), but rather
as an instance of reinforcement history affect-
ing rule-governed behavior. Many questions
raised by this type of analysis remain to be
answered. For example, the initial acquisition
of instructional control can be addressed only
through developmental research. The details
of how reinforcement affects rule-governed be-
havior, and the conditions necessary for con-
trol by instructions and rules of other forms
remain incomplete, but the present research
shows the utility of an experimental analysis
of these phenomena.

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Received 28 August 1977.
(Final acceptance 6 August 1978.)

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