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The Effects of Consequences on Patterns of Social Interaction: A Quasi-Experimental Approach to Reinforcement in Natural Interaction

James Snyder and Gerald R. Patterson
Child Development
Vol. 57, No. 5 (Oct., 1986), pp. 1257-1268
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130448
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130448
Page Count: 12
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The Effects of Consequences on Patterns of Social Interaction: A Quasi-Experimental Approach to Reinforcement in Natural Interaction
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Abstract

Research on social interaction has consistently documented the existence of mutual interdependencies between the behavior of 1 person and reactions to that behavior by others in the social environment. The concept of social reinforcement, although often used to explain acquisition and change in interaction patterns defined by such interdependencies, is difficult to apply to interaction observed in natural settings. On the basis of extended observation of the interaction of 2 mother-child dyads, the procedures needed to assess the effects of naturally occurring consequences on interactional patterns are detailed in this study. Reliable mother action-child reaction patterns were first identified, and the effect of maternal consequences for those patterns on the probability of their subsequent occurrence was assessed. Positive consequences were associated with increases, and negative consequences with decreases, in the probability of a child reacting to the next occurrence of the maternal action when compared to the base-rate probability of that action-reaction pattern. Thus consequences affect momentary shifts around the baseline probability of interactional patterns. Positive consequences were also associated with short-term increases, and negative consequences with short-term decreases, in the base-rate probability of interactional patterns.

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