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A comparison of learning between mental defectives, mental retardates and normals

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Title:
A comparison of learning between mental defectives, mental retardates and normals
Creator:
Voerg, L. Marylyn Nuhn, 1927-
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
v, 57 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.

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Alluvial islands ( jstor )
ATMs ( jstor )
Intelligence quotient ( jstor )
Local area networks ( jstor )
Open reading frames ( jstor )
Prisoners of war ( jstor )
Problem solving ( jstor )
Software applications ( jstor )
Tin ( jstor )
Toes ( jstor )
Ability -- Testing ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Psychology -- UF ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Thesis:
Thesis - University of Florida.
Bibliography:
Bibliography: leaf 54.
General Note:
Vita.

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Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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Full Text













A COMPARISON OF LEARNING BETWEEN

MENTAL DETECTIVES, MENTAL RETARDATES

AND NORMALS










By
MARYLYN N. VOERG


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY











UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


April, 1964




A COMPARISON OF LEARNING BETWEEN
MENTAL DEFECTIVES, MENTAL RETARDATES
AND NORMALS
By
MARYLYN N. VOERG
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
April, 1964


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The author wishes to express her sincere appreciation to the
members of her supervisory coranittee for their aid and assistance in
the preparation of this study.
The greatest obligation is owed to Dr. Dorothy Rethlingshafer,
chairman of the supervisory coranittee, without whose encouragement,
cooperation, and vast patience this paper would not have been completed.
lb Dr. Richard Anderson, Dr. E, D. Hinckley, Dr. George Bartlett,
and Dr. Ear hang Zabeeh gratitude is due for serving as members of the
'.. \ >r
supervisory coranittee and for their advice and valuable criticism
during the preparation of the paper.
An especial debt is owed to the children of Sunland Training
Colter, Gainesville, Florida who served as subjects for the study and
to Mr. R. C. Phillips, superintendant of the Training Center for his
cooperation.


TABLE OP COMIENTS
Rage
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ii
LIST OP TABLES iv
LIST OP FIGURES v
Chapter
I. BACKGROUND AND PROBLEM 1
II. SUBJECTS, APPARATUS, AND PROCEDURE 15
HI. RESULTS 20
IV. DISCUSSION 40
V. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS. 49
LIST OP REFERENCES 54
APPENDIX
I. DESCRIPTION OP THE EXPERIMENTAL AND CONTROL GROUPS 55
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ... 5 6
ill


LIST OP TABLES
l&bles Rage
1, Means and Variances Obtained By All Three Groups Ch the
Original Five Sets of Problems ,21
2, Median Nunber of Errors on Original Five Sets of Problems , , 24
3, Median Number of Eirors Obtained On the Original
Presentation and Reversal of Problems at E&ch Stage
of Training .27
4, Ihe Number of Positive and Negative Differences Between
Errors Obtained on Original Presentation and Reversal
of Problems ..29
5, Median Errors Obtained Ey Each Group at Each Level of
Training for Original Presentations and On Reversed
Presentations When Only Fourth Problems are Reversed ....... 30
6, Median Errors Obtained Ey Each Group at Each Level of
Training for Original and Reversed Presentations When
Oily First Problems Are Reversed ,,.,31
7, Positive and Negative Differences Between Errors On the
Original and Reversed Presentations of First and
Fourth Problems 38
lv


LIST OP FIGURES
Figure Page
1, Median Nuaber of Errors Obtained by All Three
Groups On Cri&iml Presentation of Five Sets
of Problems *. .23
2, Median Errors Cn Original and Reversed
Presentations of First Problem for the
Brain Damaged Group * *32
2a. Median Errors On Original and Reversed
Presentations of Fourth Problems for the
Brain Damaged Group 33
3* Median Errors On Original and Reversed
Presentations of First Problems for the
Non-Brain Damaged Group *34
3a. Median Errors On Original and Reversed
Presentations of Fourth Problems for
the Non-Brain Damaged Group 35
4. Median Errors Ch Original and Reversed
Presentations of First Problems for the
Average Group 36
4a, Median Errors On Original and Reversed
Presentations of Fourth Problems for
the Average Group 37
v


CHAPTER 1
BACKGROUND AND PROBLEM
She present study represents a convergence of two lines of
interest: one, a corparison of the performances of intellectually
subnormal and intellectually average children in a non-test problem
solving situation, and two: a comparison of learning processes
between different clinical groups of mentally subnormal children.
Some of the available literature seems to indicate that the
ability to solve problems may be better in a non-test situation than
in a test situation. There has also been evidence that the adult
level of non-test problem solving performances of many individuals
who, when children, received test scores indicating retardation,
is better than might have been predicted from their test scores.
Bailer (1936) studied 206 subjects who, as children, were diagiosed
as mentally retarded and all with IQ's below 70* They were
individually matched with 206 controls in relation to sex, nationality,
and age. The controls all obtained IQ scores between 100 and 120.
The subjects all had an average age of 27 years at the time of the
study and had been out of school approximately 9 years. Bailer (1936)
foind that 83% of the mental retardates were self-supporting. While
many of them tended to move frequently fran neighborhood to
neighborhood more than the controls, they moved within a restricted
range. Rawer mental defectives were married but when only
those defectives outside of the institution were considered,


the ratio far both groups was the sane. Sixty-one percent of the
mental defectives could not hold steady employment, but, Importantly,
39? did. Bailer noted also that even with institution children,
social age equals mental age (as measured by the Vineland Social
Maturity Scale) until the chronological age of 15 was almost reached;
then social age is usually about a year higher than mental age,
Muench (1944) nade a follow-up study of marital defectives after
18 years, Though his study Is limited by the lumber of mental defec
tives that he was able to locate, it is here cited as of some interest.
He felt that social competency was significantly correlated with the
degree of freedom from supervision by others. The tests utilized in
the follcw-up were the Vineland, Stanford Achievement, Intermediate
Reading, and Parteus Maze. The subjects were 40 boys from a school
In Columbus, Ohio who were diagnosed as mentally defective In 1925 on
the basis of standardized Intelligence tests. They were all considered
to be educationally retarded and of Inferior mental ability, Muench
was able to track down only elgit subjects, and of this group, 4 were
definitely mentally deficient and 4 were borderline. The results of
this study Indicated a trend In the direction of a positive change to
ward improvement In most tests, reflecting positive changas In mental
age, IQ, and social competency. This trend was fotnd on intelligence
tests and not on reading tests; so the improvement on Intelligence
test scores could not be attributed to an Improvement In reading
ability. These Individuals were all making a good social adjustment
In the same city In which they were originally Institutionalized, All
but one of the group were married with a range of from 1 to 14 years


3-
and a mean of 9 years. Generally they lived In inferior neighborhoods
but three were in good neighborhoods and the subject with the poorest
original prognosis owned his own home. Salaries earned ranged from
$3&-$55 a week and the number of years enployed with the same crpanles
ranged from 1-14 years and each family had insurance. Nene had a
court record for a serious crime since attaining adult static,
A study compiled by Ginsberg and Bray (1953) gives evidence that
a large group of adults, who, while they were not diagnosed as defec
tive when children, were diagnosed as either educationally retarded
or as mentally defective as adults on the basis of test scores, yet
were able to learn at a rate beyond that predicted by their test
scares, Ginsberg and Bray (1953) reported that during World War n
about 400,000 illiterates and 300,000 poorly educated soldiers served
with the arny after approximately 700,000 were rejected an the basis
of mental deficiency. An arny special training unit was set up for
training those man who were formally classified as illiterate end
those who scored low on the Army General Classification Ttest. The
purpose of the training was to teach these men to be able to read at
the 4th grade level, to obtain sufficient ability in language skills
to cable them to understand day to day oral and written speech, and
to be able to do 4th grade arithmetic, The naxinum time each man
could reaaln in the special course was 120 days. About 40% graduated
in less than 30 days, 80% graduated in less than 60 days, and only
11,000 men remained far more than 90 days. A total of 255,000 were
graduated from the course. Certainly several criticisms of the
results are valid, There is no doubt that seme of these mm were


not actually retarded but were only Illiterate. often brief
and hasty diagnostic procedures utilized by the Army to screen
applicants may have resulted in a number of errors. Probably a
nunber of men did net even complete the course. However, one aspect
in this study is that, as mentioned above, the rate of learning
was greater than could have been indicated by the test soores obtained
fran these men.
Ihsre are two points apparent frera the above evidence. One is
that Individuals who have been diagiosed as mentally defective when
children on the basis of test scores have indicated that they can
learn a greater rate than their test scores could have suggested.
Making a satisfactory social and economic adjustment in the community
requires the ability to solve problems on a rather coup lex level.
Apparently these individuals were able to solve problems in nany
situations other than those met in intelligence test situations.
Bre second point suggested is the clear inadequacy of nany
conclusions relating to mental retardation which have been based on
data obtained solely from Intelligence test scores. The statement was
made above that such tests may measure a narrowly limited range of
problem solving situations. Ibe studies of Davis and Havighurst (1948)
indicate that Intelligence tests sample only a limited nunber of
intellectual processes and, of those processes sampled, most are those
which would be necessary for school performance. Also, the work of
Davis and Havighurst (1948) indicates that conventional intelligence
tests consist of items related to a middle class culture only and are
generally validated on a middle class sample. Ihe sigiificance of


-5-
these studies is magnified by the fact that a large percent of the
mentally retarded are of lower social class status.
In attempting to devise a test that is not limited by culturally
Influenced items, Davis and Eels (1953) state, "a general intelligence
test is valid if it measures over-all capacity to solve mental problems."
Since scientists have discovered no objective criteria of Intelligence,
previous test constructors have tended to rely on the correlation
of test scores with school grades and ipon the fact that their problems
proved more difficult for lower age groups than for higher age groups
as evidence that their tests were actually valid measures of intelligence.
But, as many have pointed out, school grades are greatly influenced by
work habite, attention, conscientiousness, home training, desire to
compete, etc. There is little evidence that the type of
problem solving behavior required in conventional intelligence tests
is significantly correlated with the problem-solving behavior required
in a non-test situation. There may be a nunber of factors which are
very iaportant in non-test problem solving behavior but they may not
be Included in present conventional tests; hence these factors are not
being measured.
The next logical step is to hypothesize that our present concepts
of intelligence may not be sufficient. Actually, not much is really
known about many psychological processes, and their interactions, nor
do we really know how such factors as education, training, motivation,
etc. are reflected in the psychological processes. New concepts
have recently been suggested. Guilford (1956) has described 3 groups
of factors which fail under the general heading of thinking: cognition,


i
iwQuii
production, and evaluation* Cognition factors are related to ti
awareness of mental constructs* Something must be recognized or
discovered by the subject* After the situation has been comprehended,
something must be done to it or about it* Some end result is produced.
Finally, evaluation factors are related to conclusions about the
appropriateness or effectiveness of the produced result. In short, a
situation is recognised, something is done about it, and the question
is raised: is the product or solution correct or workable? Guilford
(1956) felt that productions and evaluation have not been previously
studied or considered as intellectual processes. Sara son and Gladwin
(1958) feel that these two groups of factors have not been Included
in conventional tests and nay account for the differences between test
and non-test performance with non-test performance often siperlar to
test performance. Although Guilfords (1956) research has been based
on studies of superior adults, it might be speculated that such factors
will be functioning in the psychological processes of those in the
lower end of the intelligence scales.
The problem of diagnosing and classifying mental sub-normality
is a vast and complex one, involving many individual and social factors.
However, similarly to "learning", mental sub-normality can only be
defined in terms of inferences derived from performance. In short,
it can only be described in relation to its results. According to
Sara son and Gladwin (1958), the usually accepted criteria for mental
retardation have been:
1. The mentally retarded individual is one whose defect existed
at birth or shortly after.
2, Mental retardation is manifested in intellectual and social


differences which prevent an individual from solving
problems to the extent that others of his age are able to,
3, The mentally retarded individual does now, and probably
always will require assistance and guidance from others.
Mental retardation is primarily incurable.
Thus the diagiosis of intellectual subnonnality is nade only in
relation to some external criterion of mental normality. Criterion
nuober two relating to the differences which prevent a mentally
retarded individual from solving problems as well as others of his
age has been considerably utilized in the diagiosis of mental retar
dation, Although the total personality of an Individual including
Intellectual, emotional, and social factors should be evaluated,
unfortunately, measurement of mental ability has usually been the sole
criterion. Furthermore, the readily available standardized Intelligence
tests have primarily been selected as the means of such Intellectual
evaluations, Althaugh it is certain that these tests correlate
significantly with scholastic opportunity and achievement, it may also
be possible that such tests may measure only a very narrow range of
problem solving situations.
In addition to determining the mentally retarded or mentally
defective as a group differing from the mentally normal, distinctions
must be made within the classification of mental subnormality, Sarascn
and Gladwin (1958) make a distinction between the tens "mental deficiency
and "mental retardation," The term "mental retardation presumes that
no ctrgpnlc pathology can be detected and that there are indications
of environmental deficit as a basis for below normal mental ability.


In short, the obvious presence or absence of organic pathology will
be the distinction between the terms "defective" and "retarded".
Neither defectives nor retardates is considered homogeneous as tar as
etiology of retardation is concerned.
In the above mentioned studies by Muench (1944) and Bailer (1936)
which Indicated that many individuals, diagnosed as defective when
children, had made satisfactory adjustments, there was no indication
that such a criterion had been utilized, but the implication was that
. ; . i
these individuals would have been included in Sarason and Gladwin's (1958)
mentally retarded group. At least, in both studies as presented, there
is no indication of the presence of any obvious organic defects.
Mueneh's (1944) group were considered retarded as children. Apparently
something closely paralleling Guilford's (1956) evaluation fhctor was
available to them: something that was not measurable by the use of
standardized intelligence tests but something that they were able to
use in order to make an adequate adjustment outside of the institution.
Whether their ability to function so satisfactorily in the non-test
problem solving situations encountered in everyday living was available
i i \
to them when they were children is not known. Muench (1944) did find
that there was no evidence that IQ's increase after institutionalization
but, again, the tool employed as a means of measurement was the
standardized intelligence test.
It can be assumed from the above evidence that retarded individuals
may perform differently (and often better) in a non-test problem
solving situation than they do in a test situation such as the
conventional intelligence test. One of the purposes of this study is


-9-
to conpare the performances of Intellectually subnormal children
with Intellectually average children in a non-test problem solving
situation.
Within an institution for defective children, it can be observed
clinically that many children Who obtain similar IQ scores on
Intelligence tests show qualitative differences in performance. This
is especially noticeable when comparing brain damaged children and
those classified as M familial or, In Saras on and Cladwins (1958)
classification, "mentally retarded." Very often the retarded child
performs much like a normal child, but at the level of a much younger
child. Ch the other hand, the performance of the brain damaged child
is often more variable, providing glinpses of good ability with poor
ability. Eisanson (195*0 describes a number of disturbances of
intellect and personality which are considered to be characteristic
of tiie brain dama^d child and which are often reflected In behavior.
Such disturbances are:
1. Disturbances of attention. The brain damaged individual
must expend mare effort to attend. Fleeting and norv-relevant
stimuli often interfere with relevant stimuli.
2. Disturbances of memory: Immediate memory for the brain
damaged Individual may be deficient as a result of the poor
ability to attend.
3. Perseveration: Perseveration is defined by Eisenscn as
"the tendency far an act or an Idea to persist in various
situations, often occurring when a brain damaged individual
has to expend great effort to obtain a response." For exasple,


10-
lt occurs when the individual is faced with new situations
and it may occur when there is difficulty in grasping new
situations.
4. Rigidity: Rigidity is defined as a tendency to persist in
a "set" or attitude of behavior when such a set is no longer
appropriate. For example, this nay also occur when the brain
damaged Individual is faced with a new situation. He is often
unable to shift from the attitudes or appropriate behavior
of the previous situation.
5. Concretism: This characteristic is described as a tendency
to approach each situation as a unique one so that toe
individual is situation bound and has difficulty in compre
hending similarities in situations.
It seems plausible to assume that if adults who were considered
to be retarded as children can perform adequately and similarly to
intellectually normal adults in everyday adjustments in a community,
then retarded children may also perform similarly to intellectually
normal children In a non-test problem solving situation, although the
intelligence test scores of the retarded may be much lower than those
of the normal children. In addition, the assumption mi git be made that
brain damaged children would not perform as adequately as the retarded
children or the intellectually normal children because of the various
disturbances of intellect and personality often accompanying an
organic disorder. If these assumptions are true, toe inadequacies of
many predictions and conclusions formulated on toe basis of intelligence
tests are perhaps more obvious. More specifically, the inadequacy of


11.
a test score alone as the basis of commitment to an institution or as
a basis for removal from the community is even more glaring.
Ihe purposes of this study are as follows: one, to test the
above assumptions that children judged to be retarded on the basis
of Intelligence test scores may perform more adequately in a non-test
problem solving situation, and two, that retarded children will
perform more like normal children in a non-test problem solving
situation, but brain damaged children will perform inadequately in
such a situation.
Ihe first step was the selection of an appropriate non-test
problem solving situation which would enable the Individual to utilize
an ability to evaluate his responses as well as to produce responses,
and would enable him to transfer learned principles from one situation
to other similar situations.
Considerable work has been done by Harlow (195) and others in
the stuJy of learning sets. Learning set is often referred to as
"learning how to learn," More conplexly, it can be described as the
development of a higher order habit from a single component located
in each of a series of problems and consistently reinforced from
problem to problem. Ihe reinforced cccponent is the response of
choosing one stimulus and then changing this choice if it proves to
be incorrect, or continuing the original choice of stimulus if it is
found to be correct. In discrimination learning sets, there is a
gradual Improvement in the ability of a subject to solve successive
discrimination problems.
Since the development of the concept of learning set, there


12.
have been a number of theoretical conceptualizations of the phenomenon.
In a key study, Ricpelle (1953) formulated the interpretation of
suppression of transfer tendencies. As learning progresses, there
is an Increasing suppression of negative transfer tendencies from
problem to problem. In other words, a new habit (a habit of testing
stimulus objects in regard to only one dimension) arises. Thus per
formance becomes increasingly Independent of any particular problem
encountered by the subject. Since the acquisition of a learning set
Involves the development of a higher order, abstract concept from a
sacies of individual problems each containing a conponent of the con
cept, learning set problems would seem to be appropriate for studying
cognitive processes. In addition, there were several other reasons whir
discrimination learning was selected as an appropriate non-test problem
solving situation:
1. The Implication has been made that such concepts as Guilford's
production and evaluation factors have been omitted from
conventional tests. A learning set problem solving situation
in which the subject is aware of the correctness and incorrect
ness of his responses and can change responses on the next
trial would provide an opportunity for the Individual to evaluate
the appropriateness or suitability of his responses.
2. Discrimination learning would provide a learning situation In
which all subjects are relatively equally naive initially. The
situation is new and unfamiliar to all subjects re^rdless of
their past education and experience, but In providing a series
of problems, it gives an indication of the rate with which
learning occurs.


-13-
3. Also, by providing a series of problems, discrimination
learning gives some indications of the effects of retroactive
and proactive interference by indicating the effects of
Interpolated problems on previously learned responses, and
the effects of previously acquired responses on new learning
stimuli.
In other words, a series of visual discrimination problems will
provide a non-test problem solving situation involving a nunber of
more conplex cognitive factors than would be found in a single concrete
problem or in a series of mrelated problems.
The hypotheses to be tested are:
1. Mentally retarded children will perform similarly to
intellectually average children in a non-test problem
solving situation which gives the children an opportunity
to evaluate the appropriateness of their responses to
given stimuli.
la. Mentally defective (train damaged) and mentally retarded
(non-brain damaged) children with the same intellectual ability
as measured by standardized intelligence tests will perform
differently in a non-test problem solving situation. It is
predicted that the brain damaged children, because of the
characteristic disturbances of memory, attention span,
distractibility, perreveration, etc. typical of such children,
will acquire a learning set at a much slower rate than
retarded or non-brail damaged children.
2. The suppressive effects of previously learned responses on
new material is referred to as proactive interference. It


is predicted that the effect's of such proactive Interference
will be greater for the mentally defective children than for
the mentally retarded and average children because of the
difficulty for t deflective children In shifting set from
originally learned responses to new material.
2a. It Is predicted that there will be no significant difference
between the retarded and average groups In relation to the
effects of proactive Interference.
3. With the Introduction of Interpolated material, a suppression
of previously learned material Is referred to as retroactive
interference. It Is predicted that there will be a greater
suppression of performance efficiency for the defective group
than for the other two groups with one Interpolated problem
because of a difficulty in shifting from one set to another
far this group. It is predicted that t defective children
will manifest less Interference In performance after four
Interpolated problems because they would be more likely
to have forgotten which blocks had originally been reinforced.
3a. It is predicted that there will be no significant difference
between the retarded and average groups In relation to the
effects of retroactive interference.


CHAPTER 2
SUBJECTS, APPARATUS, AND PROCEDURE
Fifty-nine subjects were used in the study. Forty-one of the
subjects were institutionalized children in a state home for mental
defectives. 'Diese children were assigned to two groups on the basis
of Sarason and Gladwin's suggested criteria. Group Nunber 1 consisted
of children with central nervous system disorders. These defects were
not necessarily present at or before birth. Some undoubtedly were
present before birth but this could not be determined with any degree of
certainty. Birth injury could be determined as the etiology of the defect
in 7 cases, while in 16 cases, injury had occurred shortly after birth or
in the early years of childhood. None of these children were
manifesting hormonal or metabolic disorders. Sarason and Gladwin state
that the criteria far mental retardation assure no central nervous
system defect but that the etiology is found in environmental defects.
Examination of the records and histories of the institutionalized
children classified as mentally retarded did not always indicate any
environmental lack. In some cases, there seemed to be no apparent
reason for the presence of retardation. Some of these children were
not from sub-cultural backgrounds and had not been deprived of an opportunity
to attend school. The one criterion, the presence or absence of
brain pathology could be determined and the absence of such a defect was
selected as the criterion for the classification of the mentally
retarded group consisting of IS children.
'15**


-16-
CIa3siilcation of the institutionalized children in relation
to determining the presence or absence of brain pathology was
accomplished from several types of material. A social history,
medical report, and electroencephalogram were available for each
child and all of these were utilized in determining the appropriate
classification. All of the institutionalized children used in the
study had been placed in the institution on the basis of Intelligence
test scores and a failure to perform satisfactorily in an academic
situation.
A pilot study was conducted in order to determine the most
appropriate stimuli to be used in the visual discrimination problems
and to determine the optimum chronological and mental age ranges
within which the institutionalized children could successfully
solve the problems. Tan Institutionalized children of varying
chronological ages, mental ages, and diagnostic categories were
used. It was found that regardless of mental age, there was a
tendency for older adolescent children to solve the problems faster
than younger children. Ube very young institutionalized children
(under 8 or 9) found the problems much too difficult. For this
reason, institutionalized children between the age of 10 and 16
were selected. Another reason for not choosing younger children
was that there were relatively fewer children below the age of 10
in the familial or mentally retarded classifications who were in the
population of the institution.
Ihe mental age range selected was ages 5 to, and including 7.
In the pilot study, children with mental ages below 5 found the


-17-
problems too difficult to solve and those children with mental
age over 7 solved the problems too quickly.
The three groups finally selected consisted of 41 Institutionalized
children and 18 Intellectually average children. Eighteen of the
Institutionalized children were mentally retarded and 23 were brain
damaged or mentally defective. Hie mentally defective and mentally
retarded groups were actually quite closely matched in relation to
mental ability and chronological age of 13*7 years and a mean mental
- -i ¡, f
age of 6.2 years. The mentally retarded group had a mean chronological
age of 13*5 years and a mean mentad age of 6.6 years. Mental ages
for these groups were all obtained from standardized Intelligence tests.
Either Stanford-Binet or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
was administered to each child In the study* These tests had all
been administered by qualified examiners and had all been administered
within three years of the present study.
The group of normal children was selected from the residential
areas of two different cities. Four of the children came from a
university city with a population of 29,000. Fourteen of the children
came from a large metropolitan city with a population of 700,000.
All of the children were between the ages of 5 to, and Including 7.
Mental ages for these children were also between 5 to, and Including
7 years as established by the administration of the Stanfard-Blnet
Intelligence Test by the author of the present study. Hie mean
mental age for the group of normal children was 6.1 years and the
mean chronological age was 5*9 years.
The pilot study was also utilized to select the most appropriate


Pour
-18-
stimuli to be used for the visual discrimination problems,
different types of figures were evaluated:
1, Pamiliar figures such as dolls, toys, leaves, etc,
2, Non-familiar figures such as free forms, lines, etc,
3, Achromatic geometrical foros
4, Chromatic geometrical forms
Humillar flgrres were found to be too easily distinguishable,
making the solution of a problem too easy for children of almost
any age. Non-familiar figures were too difficult to distinguish,
making the problems much too hard. Geometric foros were easily
distinguishable yet were sufficiently similar to prevent too quick
a solution. Chromatic geometric figures were finally selected
since they were more readily distinguishable than achromatic
geometric forms.
The apparatus utilized consisted of the Harlow type visual
discrimination problem set-up. There was a tray with two cips for
candy. As a cover over these cups, two wooden blocks were placed. On
the tops of the blocks were pasted colored geometric shapes. The
candles utilized as reinforcing agents were candy coated chocolates
wall enough to fit Into the cups, attractive In taste and appearance,
and resistant to melting.
The procedure utilized was identical to that used by Rlopelle
(1953). Five visual discrimination problems were presented per
session. Each problem was presented with one block as a positive
one and always with a piece of candy below it. Ohe blocks were
moved from side to side In a predetermined random order. As


-19-
eaoh problem vas solved, tibe next was presented until five were
completed. Hie criteria far a successful solution were either
five successive correct responses and/or a verbalization of the
solution: i.e., "Ch, its always under the same one." After five
problems were completa, either the first or the fourth problem was
re-presented with the positive and negative blocks reversed. Ey
re-presenting the problem with the positive and negative blocks
reversed, the effect of the originally learned response on the new
material can be determined: i.e., proactive Interference or negative
transfer. By interpolating material between the originally learned
responses and new responses (reversing the first or the fourth
problems) a measure of retroactive interference is obtained.
Including the re-presented problem, each subject was presented
six problems per day for a period of five days. From the fifty blocks
constructed in order to have twenty-five separate problems, the
blocks for each problem were selected at random. Within each daily
aeries, the blocks were rotated for each child, the second set for
the first child becoming the first set for the second child, etc.,
providing some control for the possible differences in difficulty
between the sets of blocks.
A diagram of the apparatus used appears below:


CHAPTER 3
Kssums
fee first hypothesis stated that the mentally defective and
mentally retarded groves with comparable intelligence test scores
will perform differently in a non-test problem solving situation
with the retarded children acquiring a learning set at a fester
and more consistent rate than the defective children. It was also
hypothesized that the mentally retarded children would acquire a
learning set at about the same rate and consistency as the
intellectually average children*
For statistical analysis, the twenty-five original problems were
divided Into five group3 of five problems each. Such groining seemed
appropriate since the order of presentation of problems had been five
problems per cay for five successive days. Hi the original research
desigi for the present study, the first hypothesis was to be tested
by an analysis of the difference of the mean errors for the groups at
each level of training. However, because of the excessively large
variance in the performance of the brain damaged group (See feble 1)
t 'r ,* r
it was felt that the basic assumptions of normality of population
distribution and homogeneity of variance could not be accepted.
Because normality and homogeneity of variance were questionable,
a non-pararaetric statistic ms selected. Such a statistic would
compare two or more distributions without specifying the forms of the
distributions, fee median test was selected to test the hypothesis
that the samples do not significantly differ from one another. For
-20-


-21-
Tfcbl 1
muss Am VAHIANCES QBIiUSH) 63t ALL three groups on
THE OfHOIHAL FIVE S2T3 CP FaOBL8J
Brain Qamgtd Non-Brain QwMjsd ¡fernal
Problem
Nran
CJTQT5
fertanoe
NUI
Errors
ferame
ran
Error*#
ferenos
1-5
50.1
102.71
5.12
5.86
6.9
5.23
6-10
25.26
82.22
1.98
3.81
1.5
1.91
11-15
21.20
82.65
.90
1.96
.69
1.55
16-20
21.62
82.62
1.00
1.97
61
1.69
21-25
20.50
82.81
.80
1.68
.66
1.67


-22-
each group, data from the five problems presented were pooled
and the median number of errors obtained (See Thble 2). The number of
cases in the samples falling above and below the median of the combined
observations was determined. The resulting data were analysed in a
contingency table and the hypothesis was rejected if the observed
chi square was larger than the critical value for one degree of freedom.
Using the median test, the first hypothesis was tested. The
errors obtained by each group were compared to those errors obtained
by each of the other groups. At all levels of training, the brain
damaged group made significantly more errors than the non-brain
damaged and normal groups (See Figure 1, page 23). Such differences
were all significant at the .001 level of confidence. It can be seen
from Figure 1 and Table 2 that the non-brain damaged children acquired
a learning set at a faster and mare consistent rate than the brain
danagsd group. The non-brain damaged or retarded group showed a
decrease in errors from the first Uve problems to the second five
problems. Performance then remained stable until the end of the
series except for a snail rise in errors on the fourth day of
training.
Tie brain damaged group obtained more errors on the second
day of training than were obtained on the first day. For this
group, the number of errors then dropped on the third day, rose
on the fourth day and finally decreased sligitly on the fifth day.
There was no significant difference between the non-brain
damaged and normal groups at any stages of training indicating that
they acquired a learning set at about the same rate. It is interesting


-23-
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25
Sets of Problems
Figure 1. Median number of errors obtained by all three groups
on original presentations of five sets of problems. Differences
between the defective group and the other two groups is significant
at the .001 level of confidence at all levels of training.
Brain Damaged
Non-Brain Damaged
Normal


Ihble 2
MEDIAN NUMBER OP ERRORS FOR EACH GROUP ON ORIGINAL FIVE SEES OP PROBLEMS.
Problems
Brain Damaged
Non-Brain Damaged
Normal
1-5
8.3
1.2
1.5
6-10
9.6
.6
.8
11-15
4.3
.6
.8
16-20
5.5
.7
.5
21-25
4.7
.6
.5
Differences between defective and other two groups are significant
at the .001 level at all stages.


-25-
to note, however, that until the third day of training, the
Intellectually normal children made eligibly mare errors than the
mentally retarded group although there Is no statistical difference
between the number of errors.
The first hypothesis Is supported. Mentally retarded children
performed as well as intellectually average children In a non-test
problem solving situation. Mentally defective children manifesting
organic brain pathology performed sigiifieantly poorer than either
the mentally retarded or the mentally average groups.
In order to measure the effects of proactive interference or
negative transfer on the three groups, performance on the reversed
problem was compared to performance on the original presentation
of a problem for each subject. The median number of errors for
the reversal and for the problem when it was first presentad were
determined for each of the groups. These data are presented in
Thble 3.
For all groups, at the early and middle stages of training,
the number of errors obtained when the problem was originally presented.
At least as far aa total group performance is concerned, the inter
ference predicted aa a result of the cue reversal did not generally
increase the matter of errors. Apparently when the problems ware
re-presented, there was no persisting tendency to respond to the
stimulus which bad been positive at the first presentation. It
would seem that either the subjects approached each problem as a
new situation, forgetting their previous responses, or else, the
re-presenting of the problems was actually facilitating rather than


Interfering. Chce the subjects became aware that their first
responses were now Incorrect, they could very quickly change to the
correct response.
One significance of the differences In performance between
original presentations and re-presentations of problems was determined.
Since each subject was observed under two conditions, the original
presentation and tee reversal of a problem any test would be Invalid.
Hence, tee non-parametric statistic, tee sign test, was utilized,
the number of positive and negative differences between tee errors
obtained under tee two conditions was obtained and the null hypothesis
was rejected when tee number of positive and ne^tive signs differed
significantly from equality. The differences between errors on tee
original and reversed presentations are presented in Table 4.
For the defective grodp, the number of people obtaining more
errors than fewer errors on tee reversals is significantly greater
at tee .01 level of confidence. Far this group, proactive Inter-
ference was marked at tee last stages of training, but was not
operative at tee initial stages. For the non-brain damaged and average
groups, significant proactive interference was absent at all
stages of training. In fact, tee decrease In the number of errors
when problems were reversed at the end of the first five problems
is significant for the average group at tee .01 level of confidence.
Hence tee hypothesis that proactive interference would be
greater far tee brain damaged group Is only partially supported for
it Is only at the last level of training teat such interference is
significant.


-27-
Table 3
MEDIAN NUMBER OP ERRORS OBTAINED ON THE ORIGINAL PRESENTATION AND
REVERSAL OP PROBLEMS AT EACH STAGE OP TRAINING FCR AIL THREE GROUPS.
Bmln Damaged
Non-Brain Damaged
Average
(Defective)
(Retarded)
Problems
Original
Reversal
Original
Reversal
Original
Reversal
1-5
13
8
10
2
5
1
6-10
10.5
5
1
2
1
1
11-15
9
5
1.5
1
1
1
16-20
3
5
1
1
1
1
21-25
2
4
1
1
1
1


-28-
Ihe third hypothesis stated that there would be a greater
suppression of performance efficiency with one interpolated problem
(fourth problem reversed) than with four interpolated problems
(first problem reversed) for the brain damaged group. It was
stated that the brain damaged group, because of poor immediate
memory, poor attention span, distraetlbility, etc., would naniflest
less interference after foto* interpolated problems because they would
be more likely to forget the block which had been originally
reinforced. It was further felt that there would be more inter
ference in performance after one interpolated problem due to the
fact that these subjects would be less likely to shift from respond
ing to one block as positive to responding to the previously negt-
tive block as now positive. Such a shift after only one interpolated
problem should be difficult because of the trait of rigidity
characteristic of the brain damaged individual, liable 5 presents
the median errors obtained by each group at each level of training
for both the original and reversed problems whan the fourth
problems are reversed.
Table 6 presents the median errors obtained by each group
for both the original and reversed problems when the first problems
are reversed.
The data presented in Tables five and six are portrayed
graphically In Figures 2, 2a, 3* 3a, 4, and 4a.
The sigi test was again utilized to determine the significance
of differences between performance an original and reversed
presentations of the problems. Table 7 presents the positive and


Bible 4
THE NUMBER OP POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ERRORS
OBTAINS) ON ORIGINAL PRESENTATION AND REVERSAL OP PROBLEMS FOR
AIL THREE GROUPS AT EACH STAGE OP TRAINING,
'*V
Etain Damaged
Non-Grain Damaged
Average
Problems
(Defective)
+ -
(Retarded)
+ -
+
mm
1-5
8
7
13
5
14
2
6-10
8
11
5
10
6
10
11-15
7
11
3
8
3
2
16-20
4
12
4
7
3
10
21-25
1
11*
2
2
6
5
* significant differences at the ,01 level of confidence.


-30-
Table 5
MEDIAN ERRORS OBTAINED BY EACH GROUP AT EACH LEVEL OP TRAINING POR
ORIGINAL PRESENTATIONS AND ON REVERSED PRESENTATIONS WHEN ONLY THE
FOURTH EH0BES4S ARE REVERSED.
Brain Damaged
(Defectives)
Non-Brain Damaged
(Retarded)
Average
Problems
Original
Reversed
Original
Reversed
Original.
Reversed
1-5
15
6
9
3
4
1
6-10
4.5
4.5
1
1
1
1
11-15
7.5
8.5
1
1
1
1
16-20
2
2.5
1
1
1
1
21-25
1
7
1
1
1
1


Tfetble 6
THE MEDIAN ERRORS OBTAINED BY EACH OP THE THREE GROUPS AT EACH IZVEL
OP TRAINING PCR BOTH THE ORIGINAL AND REVERSED PRESENTATIONS OF PROBLEMS
WHEN ONLY THE FIRST PROBLEMS ARE REVERSED.
Brain Damaged Non-Brain Damaged
Problems Original Reversed Original Reversed
1-5
12
12.5
6-10
5
11
11-15
7.5
3.5
16-20
4
9
21-25
2
3
17
2
1
1
1
2
1.5
1
Average
Original Reversed
8 1
1 1
1 1
1 1
1
1
1
1


32.
1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25
Sets of problem
Figure 2. Median errors on original and reversed presentations
of first problema for t brain damaged pro*?).
__________ Original learning
----- Reversals


I
-33-
1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25
Sets of Problems
Figure 2a. Median errors on original and reversed presentations
of fourth problems for the brain damaged group.
__________ Original learning
..... Reversals
L


-34-
10
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25
Sets of PfoblerrB
Figure 3. Median errors on original and reversed presentations
of first problems for the non-brain damaged group.
Original learning
- Reversals


35-
1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25
Sets of Problem
Figure 3s. Median errors on original and reversed presentations
of fourth problem for the non-brain damaged group.
Original learning
Reversals


-36-
0
1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25
Sets of Problems
Figure Median eirars an original and reversed presentations
of first problems for the average group.
Original learning
Reversals


-37-
lb
14
12
10
1
6
4
2
0
1-5 6-10 11-15 lb-20 21-25
Set* of Probler*
figure 4a. Median errors m original and reversad presentation
of fourth probloss for the avarice group.
Original learning
_ )(><)> in t.. t />
* 4M m> wWr9^J3


-38-
Tfcble 7
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ERRORS ON THE ORIGINAL
AND REVERSED PRESENTATIONS OF FIRST A! FOURTH PROBLEMS FCR ALL
THREE GROUPS.
Group Reversal of First Reversal of Fourth
Problem Problem
+
-
+
mm
Brain Damaged
15
23
12
29*
Non-GTOln Damaged
16
15
10
21
Average
11
4
9
8
* Significant at the ,01 level of confidence.


-39
negative differences between errors on the original and reversed
presentations and their significances for all three groups.
Since the data had been divided into two groups, presentations
and reversals of first problems and fourth problems, there were not
enough subjects in each of the groups at each stage of training to
provide a valid estimation of significance of differences. Hence
the data for all five stages of training were cantoined within each
grouping of first or fourth reversals.
Pea* all three groups, the differences in performance between
the original and reversed presentation are not significant when the
first problems are reversed. When the fourth problems are reversed,
the brain damaged group show a difference significant at the .01
level of confidence, Indicating that thi3 group made significantly
more errors cn reversed problems when the fourth problems were
reversed.
Thus, the second hypothesis that proactive interference would
be greater for the brain damaged group is only partially supported,
for it is only at the last level of training that such interference
is significant.
The third hypothesis stated that for the brain damaged group
there would be a greater suppression of performance efficiency
with one Interpolated problem than with four Interpolated problems.
Results Indicate that this hypothesis is supported since this group
nade significantly mare errors on reversed problems when the fourth
problems are reversed.


CHAPTER 4
DISCUSSION
purposes of the present study have been* first, the
comparison of the performances of mentally subnormal and mentally
normal children In a series of non-test problem solving situations,
and second, a comparison of learning processes between two different
clinical groups of mentally subnormal children.
The first hypothesis stated that* (a) mentally retarded
children will perfora similarly to intellectually average children
in a non-test problem solving situation, one which will provide the
children with an opportunity to evaluate the appropriateness of
their solutions as well as requiring them to solve problems. In
addition (b) mentally defective and mentally retarded children with
similar intellectual ability as measured by standardized intelligence
tests will perfbrm differently In a non-test problem solving
situation, with the defective children acquiring a learning set at
a much slower rate than retarded children.
The first hypothesis was completely supported. Mentally
subnormal children can perform as well as mentally normal children
in & series of non-test visual discrimination problem solving
situations. There was no significant difference between the errors
Obtained by the retarded and average groups. The learning set
acquisition curres for these two groups indicate a consistent and
rapid rate of learning. Errors decreased steadily from the first
day of training to the second day and remained consistently low
-40-


througiout the reminder of the series of problems. Actually, at
the first two stages of training, the retarded children obtained
fewer errors than the average children, although this difference
vas not statistically significant. Such a difference in performance
in this direction vas probably due to the fact that the retarded
children had slightly higher mental ages than the average children
and the fact that the retarded were considerably older than the
average children chronologically. It was felt that their greater
maturity and experience were the primary factors involved. The
preliminary pilot study indicated that older children learned
more quickly than younger children even when both groups were
retarded. It was frequently noted during the preliminary and
present study that the older retarded and defective children were
extremely alert to many extraneous and less obvious clues in the
environment and were able to utilize such cues as clues to the correct
location of the candy, i.e., the shadow cast by the examiners
arm on the wall, the angle of the examiner's bant elbow, and the
direction from which came the sound of the candy being placed in
the cup. Saras on and Gladwin (1958) raised the question of the
development of evaluative thinking with increasing chronological
age. Che might hypothesize that the ability to utilize what Guilford
(1956) refers to as evaluative linking may be present in younger
children but as a child grows older, he is able to utilize more
distant but relevant cues in solving problems and evaluating solutions.
Hence, the efficiency and appropriateness with which he evaluates
his behavior may develop with age. The chronologically younger
children of average and subnormal intelligence did evaluate their


responses, but could do so only within narrow limits, i.e., they
focused an the block, the cup, and the candy, and were unaware of
the more distant cues.
The acquisition curve for the defective group Indicates that
a learning set is acquired at a much slower and more inconsistent
rate. The extreme variability of performance within this group
is notably striking. In other words, some of the brain damaged
children solved the problems very quickly while others found it
extremely difficult. Actually five of the defective subjects
were triable to solve any of the problems even after repeated trials.
Probably the heterogeneity of this group is a prlnaiy factor in
such variability. While the children in the defective geoup were
selected on the basis of brain injury alone without concomitant
hormonal or metabolic disorders, certainly the locus of brain
injury would vary from subject to subject. Some of the children
may have had difficulty in perceiving visual stimuli. Others may
have been unable to form and utilize higher order abstractions
such as, In this study, "it's always under the same block." Still
others may have had difficulty In even perceiving that there was
any patterning involved in placing the candy in the various cups.
The poor performances manifested by so many of the defective
children did not seem to stem from an inability to evaluate the
appropriateness of their responses. All except five of these
children did attenpt to evaluate what they were doing. They formed
many hypotheses throughout the training sessions and, for the most
part, were able to change hypotheses when they felt that their


responses were not confirming them. Primarily the poor performance of
the defective children seemed to be due to Intellectual and personality
factors considered to be typical of such children; i.e., rigidity,
perseveration, poor attention span, poor memory, and concretlssu
Obese characteristics seemed to prevent the defective children
from really paying attention to the relevant aspects of the problems.
Although they formed hypotheses relating to position or pattern of
placement of the blocks, a few of the children were unable to shift
to the correct block even when the incorrect (but preferred) block was
consistently not reinforced. These children continued to respond
Incorrectly trial after trial. Five children never solved any of
the problems. Actually after two of these subjects had completed the
entire series of problems without solving any, the examiner, out of
curiosity, continued to present the stimuli with no reinforcement
of either block. The subjects continued to select the same preferred ^
block until the examiner tired. Even when the blocks were not
alternated from side to side, the subjects continued to select the
preferred block. There was nothing outstanding in the histories, EEG's,
or test scores of these children to have Indicated or predicted their
failure to learn. For exarple, the estimates of brain damage (mild,
deep, etc.) made by the physician who evaluated the EEGs varied from
child to child. In two cases such damage was considered milder and more
superficial in comparison with some of the brain damaged children who
learned quickly. Test scores for these children were also cctrparable
to those of the other brain damaged and the non-brain damaged
retarded children


-44-
A number of the children, both brain damaged and retarded, did
not verbalize an hypothesis, but formed left or rlgit preferences,
Por the most part, they were able to shift to another response after
continued reinforcement of the appropriate block,
Ooncretism vas displayed by the children who were able to develop
the concept of one block being consistently reinforced for each
Individual problem but were triable to carry this concept over to the
next different but similar problem. These children approached each
problem as a new and unfamiliar one.
However, it must be emphasized that some of the brain damaged
children (seven subjects) did solve the problems very quickly, similarly
to the non-brain damaged and normal groups, were able to acquire a learn
ing set early in the series, and could carry the set over to the
succeeding problems.
Hypothesis number two predicting greater proactive interference
for the defective group than for either the retarded and average
groups was only partially supported. Hie results of the sign test
indicated that at all levels of training, for the retarded and average
roups, there was no significant difference between the number of people
obtaining more errors and those obtaining fewer errors on reversals
of problems, A conparlscn of the median number of errors obtained
by these groups under both conditions (original and reversed presentations)
readily indicates that after the first five problems, both original and
reversed presentations of problems were quickly solved in about the
same number of trials.
For the defective group, it is only at the final stage of training


-45-
that more subjects made more errors than fewer errors on reversals.
For this group, proactive interference increased rather than decreased
as learning progressed. This result seems paradoxical since there
is considerable evidence indicating that, in general, as learning
progresses and the more clearly previous activities can be discriminated,
the less they should be confused with current activity (Osgood, 1953)*
The reason for an increase in interference rather than a decrease as
learning progressed for the defective group becomes clearer when a
comparison between performance on reversals after one interpolated
problem and performance after four Interpolated problems is nade.
This comparison will be emphasized in the discussion of hypothesis three.
Hypothesis three stated that for the defective group, in contrast
to the other groups, interference should be greater after one interpolated
problem than after four interpolated problems because the defective
group would be less able to shift from responding to one block as
positive in the original presentation to responding positively
to the previously negative block at the reversed presentation. This
prediction was supported. When fourth problems were reversed (one
Interpolated problem), the number of subjeots in the brain damaged
group making more errors than on the original presentation was
significantly greater (.01 level of confidence) than the number of
subjects making fewer errors. While the sigi test could not be
utilized at each separate stage of training, a comparison of the median
number of errors obtained on original and reversed presentations
indicates that with four Interpolated problems, when a subject did not
have to shift suddenly to responding positively to an Immediately


preceding negative stimuli at the final stag of training fewer or
about the same number of errors were obtained on reversals as were
obtained on the original presentations of problems. Apparently as
original learning progressed and the problems became more clearly
discriminated facilitation occurred as might be expected according
to Osgood (1953) When there was only one interpolated problem before
a shift in both stimulus and response is required confusion ensued
primarily because of such difficulty in shifting response sets suddenly
for the brain damaged grot?. Hence the paradoxical finding for this
group, when both one and four interpolated problems are considered,
that as original learning progressed to the last stage of training,
interference became maxlmun and significant. As problems became more
clearly discriminated, it is then more difficult for the brain damaged
child to shift to a new and directly reversed response than when the
problems are less clearly discriminated.
In summary, the above results of the current study Indicate that,
as predicted, Intellectually subnormal children and intellectually
average children with equivalent mental ages can learn equally well
in non-test problem solving situations such as the series of
visual-discrimination learning problems. However, it is the intellectually
retarded (ncn-brain damaged) who perform as efficiently in such situations
as the intellectually average. Mentally defective (brain damaged)
children functioned significantly poorer than either the average or
retarded children in solving such problems. Although, as a group, the
defective children learned slowly and at an inconsistent rate, the
variability within the group was striking. Sane children learned to


solve the problem quickly. 0than solved the* wry slowly or not at
ii T
then too effects of proactive and retroactive interfVrencc on
pcrfonmnoc war* considered, intar fornica as greater for th* defective
group than for either the retarded or tits average groups. The
retarded and average groups shewed no slgdLflssat effects of Interference.
As la original learning of the problems, ^ retarded Migran per Dowd
similarly to the average children. Again the defective children
displayed narked variability In cffbete of proeotlve and retroactive
Interference. The sain Implication suggested by the above statenente
la thats one carnet predict that all brain damaged children will not
Isom quickly and efficiently. This will vary frae child to child.
His fid iron the iras study scats considerable doubt upon
the validity of standardised intelligence tests as a sole arana of
arriving at aany conclusions concerning santal retardation. Even acre
glaringly suggested is the possibility that standardised intelligence
tests vesture only a narrow range of problem solving situations.
Certainly, In the present study, children with similar Intellectual
ability am usasured by tush tests per forrad differently In a series
of apooifle non-test problem solving situations.
In addition, the data obtained in the present study raise questions
relating to the training of ohildren of flUb-norral intelligence. If
defective and retarded group with comparable intellectual ability as
secured by Intelligence tests, manifest a east difference in ability
to solve problem, it would seen necessary to provide vastly different
training and educational pragmas for raildrae in training schools
and spsoial classes.


-48-
As a result of the current study, several possibilities for
future study become apparent:
1. No brain damaged children of average intellectual ability
were included In the study because the purposes of this stud/ were to
conpare children of sub-normal intelligence with those of normal
intelligence and to conpare children of sub-normal intellectual ability
with different clinical classification. Ohose characteristics
typical of brain damaged children such as defects in memory, attention
span, etc., probably also affect the performances of brain damaged
children of average intelligence. An evaluation of the effects of
such characteristics on the performances of these children in a
non-test problem solving situation might prove valuable.
2. Further study of the wide variability between brain damaged
children seems warranted. While the loci of damage and the extent of
damage are important factors, it is often difficult to determine these
accurately. Perhaps the development of tests such as the new Illinois
Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities which is not yet widely available
(Kirk, 1961) may prove invaluable. Such a test purports to determine
the specific psychic and linguistic function affected by the brain
damage. Perhaps there is a relationship between the type of function
disturbed or the number of functions disturbed and the ability to
efficiently solve problems.
3. Since it seems evident that learning for many brain damaged
children is Impaired by certain disturbances of personality and
intellect, one wonders whether appropriate training methods can be
developed to overcome or to minimize the effects of such disturbances
thus enabling these children to learn more efficiently?


CHAPTER 5
SIM-ARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The present study represents a convergence of two lines of
interest:one, a comparison of the performances of intellectually
subnormal and Intellectually average children in a non-test problem
solving situation, and twos a comparison of learning processes between
different clinical groups of mentally subnormal children.
Much of the available literature seems to indicate that the
ability to solve problems may be bettor in a non-test situation than
in a test situation. Users has also been evidence that the adult
level of non-test problem solving performances of many individuals who,
as children, received test scores indicating retardation, is better
than might have been predicted from their test scores. Studies by
Bailer (1936), Muench (1944), and Ginsberg aid Bray (1953) indicate two
min points. Che is that retarded individuals may perform differently
(and often better) in a non-test problem solving situation than they do
in a test situation. The second point is the dear Inadequacy of many
conclusions related to mental retardation which have been based on
data obtained solely from intelligence test scores.
The problem of diagnosing and classifying mental subnormality is
coup lex and can be made only in relation to seme external criterion of
mental normality. Distinctions must be made within the classification
of mental subnormality. Samson and Gladwin (1958) distinguish between
"mental deficiency" and "mental retardation", The term "retardation"
presumes no organic pathology can be detected. The term "deficiency"
presumes the presence of detectable organic pathology. There are a
-49-


-50-
number of disturbances of Intellect and personality which are
considered to be characteristic of the brain damaged child and reflected
In behavior. Such characteristics are: disturbances of attention and
memory, perseveration, rigidity, and ccnoretism.
The purposes of this study are to test the following assumptions:
one, children judged to be retarded on the basis of Intelligence test
scares may perform more adequately In a non-test problem solving
situation. TWo, retarded children will perform more like normal children
In a non-test problem solving situation, but brain damaged children will
perform Inadequately in such a situation. The non-test problem solving
situation consisted of a series of twenty-five visual discrimination
problems. For each problem one stimulus was always positive and one was
always negative. Five problems were presented each day for five
consecutive days. At the end of each day's session either the first or
fourth problem was re-presented but with the positive and negative
stimuli reversed In order to obtain measures of proactive and
retroactive interference.
The following hypotheses were tested:
1. Mentally retarded children will perform similarly to
Intellectually average children in a non-test problem
solving situation which gives the children an opportunity
to evaluate the appropriateness of their responses to
given stimuli.
la. Mentally defective (brain damaged) and mentally retarded
(non-brain damaged) children with the same Intellectual ability
as measured by standardized Intelligence test will perform
differently in a non-test problem solving situation. It Is


-51-
predicted that the brain damaged children, because of the
characteristic disturbances of memory, attention span,
distraetibility, perseveration, etc* typical of such children,
will acquire a learning set at a much slower rate than
retarded or non-brain damaged children.
2. Ihe suppressive effects of previously learned responses on
new raterial is referred to as proactive interference. It
is predicted that the effects of such proactive interference
will be greater for the mentally defective children than for
the mentally retarded and average children because of the
difficulty far the defective children in shifting set from
originally learned responses to new raterial.
2a, It is predicted that there will be no significant difference
between the retarded and average groups In relation to the
effects of proactive interference.
3, With the introduction of Interpolated material, a suppression
of previously learned material is referred to as retroactive
interference. It is predicted that there will be a greater
suppression of performance efficiency for the defective groip
than for the other two groups with one interpolated problem
because of a difficulty In shifting from one set to another
for this group. It is predicted that the defective children
will manifest less interference in performance after four
interpolated problems because they would be more likely
to have forgotten which Ibocks had originally been reinforced,
3a. It is predicted that there will be no slgiificant difference


-52.
between the retarded and average groups In relation to the
effects of retroactive Interference.
Fifty-nine subjects were utilized In the study. Forty-one of
the subjects were children Institutionalized In a school for mental
defectives. Eighteen of the Institutionalized children were mentally
retarded (non-brain damaged) and twenty-three were mentally defective
(brain damaged). Eighteen of the subjects were non-institutionalized
and Intellectually average.
Analysis of the data provides the following conclusions:
1. The first hypothesis that mentally subnormal children perform
as well as mentally normal children in a non-test problem
solving situation is completely supported. There was no
significant difference between the errors obtained by the
retarded and average groups.
It was also hypothesized that the mentally defective and
mentally retarded groups with comparable Intelligence test scores
)
will perfora differently in a non-test problem solving situation
with the retarded children acquiring a learning set at a faster
and more consistent rate than the defective children. This
hypothesis is completely supported. The difference between
performances of the two groups is significant at the .001 level
of confidence.
2. hypothesis number two predicting greater proactive interference
for the defective group than for either the retarded and
average groups was only partially supported since, for the
defective group, it is only at the final stage of training


-53-
that more subjects made more errors than fewer errors on
reversals. There was no sex difference between the average
and retarded groups.
3* hypothesis three stated that for the defective groups, in
contrast to the other groups, Interference should be greater
after one interpolated problem than after four Interpolated
problems. This hypothesis was supported. The number of
subjects In the brain damaged group making more errors than
on the original presentation was significantly greater than
those subjects making fewer errors (.01 level of confidence).
There was no significant difference between performances of
the average ami retarded groups.
It is felt that evidence frena the present study casts
considerable doubt upon the validity of standardized
intelligence tests as a sole means of arriving at many
conclusions concerning mental retardation. Also suggested is
the possibility that standardized intelligence tests measure
only a narrow range of problem solving situations.


List of References
Bailer, W. R. A study of the present social status of a group of adults,
who, when they were In elementary school, were classified as mentally
deficient. Genet. Psychol, ftfanog., 1936, 18, 165-244.
Davis, A., & Eels, K. Davls-Eels test of general Intelligence or problem-
solving ability. New lorie: World Book, 1953.
Davis, A., & Havl^iurst, R* J. lbs measurement of mental systems (Can
Intelligence be measured?). Sel, Mo., 1948, 66,301-316.
Eisenson, J. Examining for aphasia. (Rev. ed.) New York, Psychological
Corporat., 1954.
Glnzberg, E., & Bray, D, W. Ihe uneducated. New York: Columbia Unlv.
Press, 1953.
Guilford, J. P, ihe structure of intellect, Psychol. Bull., 1956, 53,
267-293.
Harlow, H. P. Analysis of discrimination learning by monkeys. J. Exp.
Psychol.. 1950, 40, 26-39.
Kirk, Samuel A., & McCarthy, James J. ihe Illinois Test of Psychollngulstlc
Abilities an approach to differential diagnosis, Amer, Joum. Ment.
Defic., 1961, 66, 399-412.
Mench, G. A. A follow-up of mental defectives after 18 years. J. Abn. 1
Soc. Psychol., 1544, 39, 4-7-418.
Osgood, C. E. Method and theory in experimental psychology. New York:
Oxford Uhiv. Press., 1953.
Riopelle, J. Transfer stppression and learning sets. J. Cago, £
Physiol. Psychol.. 1953, 46, 108-114.
Sarason, S. B. & Gladwin, T. Psychological and cultural problems in
mental subnormality: A review of research. Genet. Psychol. Monos.,
1958, 5][, 3-290.
-54-


APPENDIX I. DESCRIPTION: QF THE EXPERIMENTAL AND CONTROL GROUPS.
Groups
Defective
Retarded
Average
Hunter of Subjects
(Brain Damaged)
23
(Ncn-Brain Damaged)
18
18
IQ Ranges
48-61
44-64
98-109
Chronological Age
(Ranges In nonths)
131-192
123-192
60-83
X C.A.

162
69
(Months)

165
Mental Age
(Ranges in months)
63-94
60-92
!
60-90
X C.A.
(Months)
74
78
73
-55-


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Harylyn N. Vberg mm bom June 29, 1927, at Chicago, Illinois.
In 1935, *he moved to St, Petersburg, Florida, where she attended public
schools and St. Petersburg Junior College. She completed her Bachelor of
Arts degree at the University of Florida In 1950 and her Master of Arts
degree In 1957 at the sane University. In i960 she cospleted a years
internship In Clinical Psychology at Washington University Medical
School in St. Louis, Missouri. Since that tine, she has been employed
as a Staff Psychologist at the Child Psychiatric Clnica of Washington
University In St. Louis.
-56-


fht illartit 1 nn mm proparo mta the direction of tht
ctrn&mm of ti* oan>itdato,o supervtoorry ooprttttso ha* boon
approved by all mwfcora of that eoaedttao* 1% vas mfcnittad to ti
rota of ti GoBlsg of Arto a! sotaneo* and to ti Omduats Council*
and mi aipprowl o partial MfUtet of t requirements for tha
egre* of rwtor of 'Mlosephy*
April 18, 1964
QfWtaata School


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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 08553 6737


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INGEST IEID EYDUVH0WQ_90NGXP INGEST_TIME 2011-10-28T19:21:38Z PACKAGE AA00004949_00001
AGREEMENT_INFO ACCOUNT UF PROJECT UFDC
FILES


A COMPARISON OF LEARNING BETWEEN
MENTAL DEFECTIVES, MENTAL RETARDATES
AND NORMALS
By
MARYLYN N. VOERG
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
April, 1964

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The author wishes to express her sincere appreciation to the
members of her supervisory committee for their aid and assistance In
the preparation of this study.
The greatest obligation Is owed to Dr. Dorothy Rethllngshafer,
chairman of the supervisory committee, without whose encouragement,
cooperation, and vast patience this paper would not have been completed.
lb Dr. Richard Anderson, Dr. E, D. Hinckley, Dr. George Bartlett,
and Dr. Farbang Zabeeh gratitude Is due for serving as members of the
' .1 i >r
supervisory coemittee and for their advice and valuable criticism
during the preparation of the paper.
An especial debt is owed to the children of Sunland Training
Canter, Gainesville, Florida who served as subjects for the study and
to Mr. R. C. Phillips, superintendent of the Training Center for his
cooperation.
11

TABLE OP CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ii
LIST OP TABLES iv
LIST OP FIGURES v
Chapter
I. BACKGROUND AND PROBLEM 1
II. SUBJECTS, APPARATUS, AND PROCEDURE 15
HI. RESULTS 20
IV. DISCUSSION . 40
V. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS. 49
LIST OP REFERENCES 54
APPENDIX
I. DESCRIPTION OP THE EXPERIMENTAL AND CONTROL GROUPS 55
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 5 6
ill

LIST OP TABLES
Ikbles Rage
1, Means and Variances Obtained By All Three Groups On the
Original Five Sets of Problems ,21
2, Median Nunber of Errors on Original Five Sets of Problems , , , , 24
3, Median Number of Eirors Obtained On the Original
Presentation and Reversal of Problems at E&ch Stage
of Training .27
4, Ihe Number of Positive and Negative Differences Between
Errors Obtained on Original Presentation and Reversal
of Problems ..29
5, Median Errors Obtained Ey Each Group at Each Level of
Training for Original Presentations and On Reversed
Presentations When Only Fourth Problems are Reversed ....... 30
6, Median Errors Obtained Ey Each Group at Each Level of
Training for Original and Reversed Presentations When
Oily First Problems Are Reversed ,,.,31
7, Positive and Negative Differences Between Errors On the
Original and Reversed Presentations of First and
Fourth Problems 38
lv

LIST OF FIGURES
*
Figure
Page
1.
Median Number of Errors Obtained by All Three
Groups On Original Presentation of Five Sets
of Problems
2,
Median Errors Cn Original and Reversed
Presentations of First Probletra for the
Brain Damaged Group .••••••••••
2a.
Median Errors On Original and Reversed
Presentations of Fourth Problems for the
Brain Damaged Group
3.
Median Errors On original and Reversed
Presentations of First Problems for the
Non-Brain Damaged Group • •••••••*..•»•
3a.
Median Errors Oh Original and Reversed
Presentations of Fourth Problems for
the Non-Brain Damaged Group
4.
Median Errors Oh Original and Reversed
Presentations of First Problems for the
Average Group
4a.
Median Errors On Original and Reversed
Presentations of Fourth Problems for
the Average Group
V
*.

CHAPTER 1
BACKGROUND AND PROBLEM
The present study represents a convergence of two lines of
interest: one, a comparison of the performances of intellectually
subnormal and intellectually average children in a non-test problem
solving situation, and two: a comparison of learning processes
between different clinical groins of mentally subnormal children.
Some of the available literature seems to indicate that the
ability to solve problems nay be better in a non-test situation than
in a test situation. There has also been evidence that the adult
level of non-test problem solving performances of many individuals
who, when children, received test scores indicating retardation,
is better than might have been predicted from their test scores.
Bailer (1936) studied 206 subjects who, as children, were diagnosed
as mentally retarded and all with IQ's below 70. They were
individually matched with 206 controls in relation to sex, nationality,
and age. The controls all obtained IQ scores between 100 and 120.
The subjects all had an average age of 27 years at the time of the
study and had been out of school approximately 9 years. Bailer (1936)
foind that 83% of the mental retardates were self-supporting. While
many of them tended to move frequently fran neighborhood to
neighborhood more than the controls, they moved within a restricted
range. Rawer mental defectives were married but when only
those defectives outside of the institution were considered,

-2-
the ratio far both groups was the sane. Sixty-one percent of the
mental defectives could not hold steady employment, but, inportantly,
39? did. Bailer noted also that even with institution children,
social age equals mental age (as measured by the Vineland Social
Maturity Scale) until the chronological age of 15 was almost reached;
then social age is usually about a year higher than mental age*
Muench (1944) nade a follow-up study of marital defectives after
18 years* Though his study Is limited by the nuntoer of mental defec¬
tives that he was able to locate, It is here cited as of some interest*
Ha felt that social competency was significantly correlated with the
degree of freedom from supervision by others* The tests utilized in
the follcw-up were the Vineland, Stanford Achievement, Intermediate
Reading, and Parteus Maze* The subjects were 40 boys from a school
in Columbus, Ohio who were diagnosed as mentally defective in 1925 on
the basis of standardized intelligence tests. They were all considered
to be educationally retarded and of Inferior mental ability* Muench
was able to track down only eigit subjects, and of this group, 4 were
definitely mentally deficient and 4 were borderline* The results of
this study Indicated a trend in the direction of a positive change to¬
ward improvement in most tests, reflecting positive changes in mental
age, IQ, and social competency* This trend was fotnd on intelligence
tests and not on reading tests; so the Improvement on intelligence
test scores could not be attributed to an lnprovement in reading
ability. These individuals were all making a good social adjustment
in the same city in which they were originally institutionalized* All
but one of the group were married with a range of from 1 to 14 years

3-
and a mean of 9 year». Generally they lived In inferior neighborhoods
but three were In good neighborhoods and the subject with the poorest
original prognosis owned his own home. Salaries earned ranged from
$38-$55 a week and the number of years enployed with the same companies
ranged from 1-14 years and each family had insurance. Nene had a
court record for a serious crinas since attaining adult static.
A study compiled by Ginsberg and Bray (1953) gives evidence that
a large ©?oup of adults, who, while they were not diagnosed as defec¬
tive when children, were diagnosed as either educationally retarded
or as maritally defective as adults on the basis of test scores, yet
were able to learn at a rate beyond that predicted by their test
scares. Ginsberg and Bray (1953) reported that during World War n
about 400,000 illiterates and 300,000 poorly educated soldiers served
with the arny after approximately 700,000 were rejected on the basis
of mental deficiency. An arny special training unit was set up for
training those man who were formally classified as illiterate and
those who scored low on the Amy General Classification Ttest. The
purpose of the training was to teach these men to be able to read at
the 4th grade level, to obtain sufficient ability In language skills
to enable them to wderstand day to day oral and written speech, and
to be able to do 4th grade arithmetic. The naxLimm time each man
could remain in the special course was 120 days. About 40% graduated
In less than 30 days, 80% graduated In less than 60 days, and only
11,000 men remained far mare than 90 days. A total of 255,000 were
graduated from the course. Certainly several criticisms of the
results are valid. There Is no doubt that some of these mm were

not actually retarded but were only Illiterate. Bre often brief
and hasty diagnostic procedures utilized by the Army to screen
applicants may have resulted in a number of errors. Probably a
number of men did net even complete the course. However, one aspect
in this study is that, as mentioned above, the rate of learning
was greater than could have been indicated by the test soores obtained
fran these men.
Ihsre are two points apparent from the above evidence. One is
that Individuals who have been diagiosed as mentally defective when
children on the basis of test scores have indicated that they can
learn a greater rate than their test scores could have suggested.
Making a satisfactory social and economic adjustment in the community
requires the ability to solve problems on a rather coup lex level.
Apparently these individuals were able to solve problems in nany
situations other than those met in intelligence test situations.
Bre second point suggested is the clear inadequacy of nany
conclusions relating to mental retardation which have been based on
data obtained solely from intelligence test scores. The statement was
made above that such tests may measure a narrowly limited range of
problem solving situations. Ihe studies of Davis and Havighurst (1948)
indicate that Intelligence tests sanple only a limited number of
intellectual processes and, of those processes sampled, most are those
which would be necessary for school performance. Also, the work of
Davis and Havighurst (1948) indicates that conventional intelligence
tests consist of items related to a middle class culture only and are
generally validated on a middle class sample. Bie sigiificance of

-5-
these studies is magnified by the fact that a large percent of the
mentally retarded are of lower social class status.
In attempting to devise a test that is not limited by culturally
Influenced items, Davis and Eels (1953) state, "a general intelligence
test is valid if it measures over-all capacity to solve mental problems."
Since scientists have discovered no objective criteria of Intelligence,
previous test constructors have tended to rely on the correlation
of test scores with school grades and ipon the fact that their problems
proved more difficult for lower age groups than for higher age groups
as evidence that their tests were actually valid measures of intelligence.
But, as many have pointed out, school grades are greatly influenced by
work habits, attention, conscientiousness, home training, desire to
compete, etc. There is little evidence that the type of
problem solving behavior required in conventional intelligence tests
is significantly correlated with the problem-solving behavior required
in a non-test situation. There may be a nunber of factors which are
very important in non-test problem solving behavior but they may not
be Included in present conventional tests; hence these factors are not
being measured.
The next logical step is to hypothesize that our present concepts
of intelligence may not be sufficient. Actually, not much is really
known about many psychological processes, and their interactions, nor
do we really know how such factors as education, training, motivation,
etc. are reflected in the psychological processes. New concepts
have recently been suggested. Guilford (1956) has described 3 groups
of factors which fail under the general heading of thinking: cognition,

i
mQmi
production, and evaluation* Cognition flactors are related to ti»
awareness of mental constructs* Something must be recognized or
discovered by the subject* After the situation has been comprehended,
something must be done to it or about it* Some end result is produced.
Finally, evaluation factors are related to conclusions about the
appropriateness or effectiveness of the produced result. In short, a
situation is recognised, something is done about it, and the question
is raised: is the product or solution correct or workable? Guilford
(1956) felt that productions and evaluation have not been previously
studied or considered as intellectual processes. Sara son and Gladwin
(1958) feel that these two groups of factors have not been Included
in conventional tests and my account for the differences between test
and non-test performance with non-test performance often siperlar to
test performance. Although Guilford’s (1956) research has been based
on studies of siperior adults, it might be speculated that such fee tors
will be functioning in the psychological processes of those in the
lower end of the intelligence scales.
The problem of diagnosing and classifying mental sub-normality
is a vast and complex one, involving many individual and social factors*
Hcwever, similarly to "learning", mental sub-normality can only be
defined in terms of inferences derived from performance. In short,
it can only be described in relation to its results. According to
Sara son and Gladwin (1958), the usually accepted criteria for mental
retardation have been:
1. The mentally retarded individual is one whose defect existed
at birth or shortly after.
2. Mental retardation is manifested in intellectual and social

differences which prevent an individual from solving
problems to the extent that others of his age are able to,
3, The mentally retarded individual does now, and probably
always will require assistance and guidance from others.
4* Mental retardation is primarily incurable.
Thus the diagiosis of intellectual subnoxmality is nade only in
relation to stare external criterion of mental normality. Criterion
nuober two relating to the differences which prevent a mentally
retarded individual from solving problems as well as others of his
age has been considerably utilized in the diagiosis of mental retar¬
dation, Although the total personality of an Individual including
Intellectual, emotional, and social factors should be evaluated,
unfortunately, measurement of mental ability has usually been the sole
criterion. Furthermore, the readily available standardized Intelligence
tests have primarily been selected as the means of such Intellectual
evaluations, Althaugh it is certain that these tests correlate
significantly with scholastic opportunity and achievement, it may also
be possible that such tests may measure only a very narrow range of
problem solving situations.
In addition to determining the mentally retarded or mentally
defective as a group differing from the mentally normal, distinctions
must be made within the classification of mental subnormality, Sarascn
and Gladwin (1958) make a distinction between the ten» "mental deficiency
and "mental retardation,” The term "mental retardation” presumes that
no ctrgpnlc pathology can be detected and that there are indications
of environmental deficit as a basis for below normal mental ability.

In short, the obvious presence or absence of organic pathology will
be the distinction between the terms "defective" and "retarded".
Neither defectives nor retardates is considered homogeneous as tar as
etiology of retardation is concerned.
In the above mentioned studies by Muench (1944) and Bailer (1936)
which indicated that many individuals, diagnosed as defective when
children, had made satisfactory adjustments, there was no indication
that such a criterion had been utilized, but the implication was that
, ; ... , ’ i
these individuals would have been included in Sarason and Gladwin's (1958)
mentally retarded group. At least, in both studies as presented, there
is no indication of the presence of any obvious organic defects.
Mueneh's (1944) group were considered retarded as children. Apparently
something closely paralleling Guilford’s (1956) evaluation factor was
available to them: something that was not measurable by the use of
standardized intelligence tests but something that they were able to
use in order to make an adequate adjustment outside of the institution.
Whether their ability to function so satisfactorily in the non-test
problem solving situations encountered in everyday living was available
.i j i
to them when they were children is not known. Muench (1944) did find
that there was no evidence that IQ's increase after institutionalization
but, again, the tool employed as a means of measurement was the
standardized Intelligence test.
It can be assumed from the above evidence that retarded individuals
may perfora differently (and often better) in a non-test problem
solving situation than they do in a test situation such as the
conventional Intelligence test. One of the purposes of this study is

-9-
to conpare the performances of Intellectually subnormal children
with Intellectually average children in a non-test problem solving
situation.
Within an institution for defective children, it can be observed
clinically that many children Who obtain similar IQ scores on
intelligence tests show qualitative differences in performance. This
is especially noticeable When comparing brain damagsd children and
those classified as "familial” or, in Saras on and Gladwin’s (1958)
classification, "mentally retarded." Very often the retarded child
performs much like a normal child, but at the level of a much younger
child. Cn the other hand, the performance of the brain damaged child
is often more variable, providing glinpses of good ability with poor
ability. Eisanson (195*0 describes a number of disturbances of
intellect and personality which are considered to be characteristic
of tine brain dama^d child and which are often reflected in behavior.
Such disturbances axe:
1. Disturbances of attention. The brain damaged individual
must expend mare effort to attend. Fleeting and norv-relevant
stimuli often interfere with relevant stimuli.
2. Disturbances of memory: Immediate memory for the brain
damaged Individual may be deficient as a result of the poor
ability to attend.
3. Perseveration: Perseveration is defined by Eisenscn as
"the tendency far an act or an idea to persist in various
situations, often occurring when a brain damaged individual
has to expend great effort to obtain a response." For exasple,

•10-
lt occurs when the individual is faced with new situations
and it may occur when there is difficulty in grasping new
situations.
4. Rigidity: Rigidity is defined as a tendency to persist in
a "set" or attitude of behavior when such a set is no longer
appropriate. For example, this nay also occur when the brain
damaged Individual is faced with a new situation. He is often
unable to shift from the attitudes or appropriate behavior
of the previous situation.
5. Concretism: This characteristic is described as a tendency
to approach each situation as a unique one so that the
individual is situation bound and has difficulty in compre¬
hending similarities in situations.
It seems plausible to assume that if adults who were considered
to be retarded as children can perform adequately and similarly to
intellectually normal adults in everyday adjustments in a community,
then retarded children may also perform similarly to intellectually
normal children In a non-test problem solving situation, although the
intelligence test scores of the retarded may be much lower than those
of the normal children. In addition, the assumption mi git be nade that
brain damaged children would not perform as adequately as the retarded
children or the intellectually normal children because of the various
disturbances of intellect and personality often accompanying an
organic disorder. If these assumptions are true, the inadequacies of
many predictions and conclusions formulated on the basis of intelligence
tests are perhaps more obvious. More specifically, the inadequacy of

•11.
a test score alone as the basis of commitment to an institution or as
a basis for removal from the community is even more glaring.
Ihe purposes of this study are as follows» one, to test the
above assumptions that children judged to be retarded on the basis
of Intelligence test scores may perform more adequately in a non-test
problem solving situation, and two, that retarded children will
perform more like normal children in a non-test problem solving
situation, but brain damaged children will perform inadequately in
such a situation.
Ihe first step was the selection of an appropriate non-test
problem solving situation which would enable the individual to utilize
an ability to evaluate his responses as well as to produce responses,
and would enable him to transfer learned principles from one situation
to other similar situations.
Considerable work has been done by Harlow (195°) and others in
the stuJy of learning sets. Learning set is often referred to as
"learning how to learn," More conplexly, it can be described as the
development of a higher order habit ftcm a single component located
in each of a series of problems and consistently reinforced from
problem to problem. Ihe reinforced ccnponent is the response of
choosing one stimulus and then changing this choice if it proves to
be incorrect, or continuing the original choice of stimulus if it is
found to be correct. In discrimination learning sets, there is a
gradual improvement in the ability of a subject to solve successive
discrimination problems.
Since the development of the concept of learning set, there

-12-
bave been a number of theoretical conceptualizations of the phenomenon.
In a key study, Ricpelle (1953) formulated the interpretation of
suppression of transfer tendencies. As learning progresses, there
is an Increasing suppression of negative transfer tendencies from
problem to problem. In other words, a new habit (a habit of testing
stimulus objects in regard to only one dimension) arises. Thus per¬
formance becomes increasingly Independent of any particular problem
encountered by the subject. Since the acquisition of a learning set
Involves the development of a higher order, abstract concept from a
series of individual problems each containing a component of the con¬
cept, learning set problems would seem to be appropriate for studying
cognitive processes. In addition, there were several other reasons why
discrimination learning was selected as an appropriate non-test problem
solving situation:
1. The implication has been made that such concepts as Guilford's
production and evaluation factors have been omitted from
conventional tests. A learning set problem solving situation
in which the subject is aware of the correctness and incorrect¬
ness of his responses and can change responses on the next
trial would provide an opportunity for the Individual to evaluate
the appropriateness or suitability of his responses.
2. Discrimination learning would provide a learning situation In
which all subjects are relatively equally naive initially. The
situation is new and unfamiliar to all subjects re^rdless of
their past education and experience, but in providing a series
of problems, it gives an indication of the rate with which
learning occurs.

-13-
3. Also, by providing a series of problems, discrimination
learning gives some indications of the effects of retroactive
and proactive interference by indicating the effects of
Interpolated problems on previously learned responses, and
the effects of previously acquired responses on new learning
stimuli.
In other words, a series of visual discrimination problems will
provide a non-test problem solving situation involving a nunber of
more conplex cognitive factors than would be found in a single concrete
problem or in a series of mrelated problems.
The hypotheses to be tested are:
1. Mentally retarded children will perform similarly to
intellectually average children in a non-test problem
solving situation which gives the children an opportunity
to evaluate the appropriateness of their responses to
given stimuli.
la. Mentally defective (train damaged) and mentally retarded
(non-brain damaged) children with the same intellectual ability
as measured by standardized intelligence tests will perform
differently in a non-test problem solving situation. It is
predicted that the brain damaged children, because of the
characteristic disturbances of memory, attention span,
distractibility, perreveration, etc. typical of such children,
will acquire a learning set at a much slower rate than
retarded or non-brail damaged children.
2. The suppressive effects of previously learned responses on
new material is referred to as proactive interference. It

is predicted that the effect's of such proactive Interference
will be greater for the mentally defective children than for
the mentally retarded and average children because of the
difficulty for tí» deflective children In shifting set from
originally learned responses to new material.
2a. It Is predicted that there will be no significant difference
between the retarded and average groups In relation to the
effects of proactive Interference.
3. With the Introduction of Interpolated material, a suppression
of previously learned material is referred to as retroactive
interference. It is predicted that there will be a greater
suppression of performance efficiency for the defective group
than for the other two groups with one Interpolated problem
because of a difficulty in shifting from one set to another
far this group. It is predicted that the defective children
will manifest less Interference In performance after four
Interpolated problems because they would be more likely
to have forgotten which blocks had originally been reinforced.
3a. It is predicted that there will be no significant difference
between the retarded and average groups in relation to the
effects of retroactive interference.

CHAPTER 2
SUBJECTS, APPARATUS, AND PROCEDURE
Fifty-nine subjects were used in the study. Forty-one of the
subjects were institutionalized children in a state horas for mental
defectives. These children were assigned to two groups on the basis
of Sarason and Gladwin's suggested criteria. Group Nunber 1 consisted
of children with central nervous system disorders. These defects were
not necessarily present at or before birth. Some undoubtedly were
present before birth tot this could not be determined with any degree of
certainty. Birth injury could be detemalned as the etiology of the defect
in 7 cases, while in 16 cases, injury had occurred shortly after birth or
in the early years of childhood. None of these children were
manifesting hormonal or metabolic disorders. Sarason and Gladwin state
that the criteria for mental retardation assure no central nervous
system defect but that the etiology is found in environmental defects.
Examination of the records and histories of the institutionalized
children classified as mentally retarded did not always indicate any
environmental lack. In sore cases, there seemed to be no apparent
reason for the presence of retardation. Some of these children were
not from sub-cultural backgrounds aid had not been deprived of an opportunity
to attend school. The one criterion, the presence or absence of
brain pathology could be determined and the absence of such a defect was
selected as the criterion for the classification of the mentally
retarded group consisting of IS children.
'15**

-16-
CIa3siilcation of the Institutionalized children In relation
to determining the presence or absence of brain pathology was
accomplished from several types of material. A social history,
medical report, and electroencephalogram were available for each
child and all of these were utilized in determining the appropriate
classification. All of the institutionalized children used in the
study had been placed in the Institution on the basis of Intelligence
test scores and a failure to perform satisfactorily In an academic
situation.
A pilot study was conducted in order to determine the most
appropriate stimuli to be used in the visual discrimination problems
and to determine the optimum chronological and mental age ranges
within which the institutionalized children could successfully
solve the problems. Ten Institutionalized children of varying
chronological ages, mental ages, and diagnostic categories were
used. It was found that regardless of mental age, there was a
tendency for older adolescent children to solve the problems faster
than younger children. The very young institutionalized children
(under 8 or 9) found the problems much too difficult. For this
reason, Institutionalized children between the age of 10 and 16
were selected. Another reason for not choosing younger children
was that there were relatively fewer children below the age of 10
in the familial or mentally retarded classifications who were in the
population of the institution.
Ihe mental age range selected was ages 5 to, and including 7.
2h the pilot study, children with mental ages below 5 found the

-17-
problems too difficult to solve and those children with mental
age over 7 solved the problems too quickly.
The three group3 finally selected consisted of 41 Institutionalized
children and 18 Intellectually average children. Eighteen of the
Institutionalized children were mentally retarded and 23 were brain
damaged or mentally defective. Hie mentally defective and mentally
retarded groups were actually quite closely matched in relation to
mental ability and chronological age of 13.7 years and a mean mental
'
age of 6.2 years. The mentally retarded group had a mean chronological
age of 13*5 years and a mean mentad age of 6.6 years. Mental ages
for these groups were all obtained from standardized intelligence tests.
Either Stanford-Binet or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
was administered to each child In the study. These tests had all
been administered by qualified examiners and had all been administered
within three years of the present study.
The group of normal children was selected from the residential
areas of two different cities. Four of the children came from a
university city with a population of 29,000. Fourteen of the children
came from a large metropolitan city with a population of 700,000.
All of the children were between the ages of 5 to, and Including 7.
Mental ages for these Children were also between 5 to, and Including
7 years as established by the administration of the Stanford-Binet
Intelligence Test by the author of the present study. The mean
mental age for the group of normal children was 6.1 years and the
mean chronological age was 5.9 years.
The pilot study was also utilized to select the most appropriate

Pour
-18-
stimuli to be used for the visual discrimination problems,
different types of figures were evaluated:
1, Bastillar figures such as dolls, toys, leaves, etc,
2, Non-familiar figures such as free forms, lines, etc.
3. Achromatic geometrical forms
4. Chromatic geometrical farms
FhmlUar fierres were found to be too easily distinguishable,
making the solution of a problem too easy far children of almost
any age. Non-familiar figures were too difficult to distinguish,
making the problems much too hard. Geometric forms were easily
distinguishable yet were sufficiently similar to prevent too quick
a solution. Chromatic geometric figures were finally selected
since they were more readily distinguishable than achromatic
geometric forms.
The apparatus utilized consisted of the Harlow type visual
discrimination problem set-up. There was a tray with two cips for
candy. As a cover over these cups, two wooden blocks were placed. On
the tops of the blocks were pasted colored geometric shapes. The
candles utilized as reinforcing agents were candy coated chocolates
wall enough to fit Into the cups, attractive in taste and appearance,
and resistant to melting.
The procedure utilized was Identical to that used by Riopelle
(1953). Five visual discrimination problems were presented per
session. Each problem was presented with one block as a positive
one and always with a piece of candy below it. Ohe blocks were
moved from side to side in a predetermined random order. As

-19-
eaoh problem vas solved, the next was presented until five were
completed. Hie criteria far a successful solution were either
five successive correct responses and/or a verbalization of the
solution: i.e., "Ch, it’s always under the same one." After five
problems were couplets, either the first or the fourth problem was
re-presented with the positive and negative blocks reversed. Ey
re-presenting the problem with the positive and negative blocks
reversed, the effect of the originally learned response on the new
material can be determined: i.e., proactive Interference or negative
transfer. By interpolating material between the originally learned
responses and new responses (reversing the first or the fourth
problems) a measure of retroactive interference is obtained.
Including the re-presented problem, each subject was presented
six problems per day for a period of five days. From the fifty blocks
constructed in order to have twenty-five separate problems, the
blocks for each problem were selected at random. Within each daily
aeries, the blocks were rotated for each child, the second set for
the first child becoming the first set for the second child, etc.,
providing some control for the possible differences in difficulty
between the sets of blocks.
A diagram of the apparatus used appears below:

CHAPTER 3
Kssums
fee first hypothesis stated that the mentally deflective and
mentally retarded groves with comparable intelligence test scores
will perform differently in a non-test problem solving situation
with the retarded children acquiring a learning set at a fester
and more consistent rate than the defective children. It was also
hypothesized that the mentally retardad children would acquire a
learning set at about the same rate and consistency as the
intellectually average children.
For statistical analysis, the twenty-five original problems were
divided Into five group3 of five problem each. Such groining seemed
appropriate since the order of presentation of problems had been five
problem per cay for five successive days. In the original research
desigi for the present study, the first hypothesis was to be tested
by an analysis of the difference of the mean errors for the groups at
each level of training. However, because of the excessively large
variance in the performance of the brain damaged group (See feble 1)
it was felt that the basic assumptions of normality of population
distribution and homogeneity of variance could not be accepted.
Because normality and homogeneity of variance were questionable,
a non-pararaetric statistic was selected. Such a statistic would
compare two or more distributions without specifying the forms of the
distributions, fee median test was selected to test the hypothesis
that the samples do not significantly differ from one another. For
-20-

-21-
Ifcbl* 1
HEARS AND VARIANCES OBTAINED BJf ALL THREE 080UPS OK
THE ORIGINAL FIVE S2T3 OP PRQBL8NB
Brain Omagad Non-Brain Qma&ad Norm!
Problem#
Naan
finw»
Variance
Nmui
Errors
Variance
Haan
Error*#
Varíanos
1-5
30.1
102.71
5.12
5.86
6.9
5.23
6-10
25.26
82.22
1.98
3.81
1.5
1.91
11-15
21.20
82.65
.90
1.96
.69
1.55
16-20
21.62
82.62
1.00
1.97
•61
1.69
21-25
20.50
82.81
.80
1.68
.66
1.67

-22-
each group, data from the five problems presented were pooled
and the median number of errors obtained (See Thble 2). The number of
cases in the samples falling above and below the median of the combined
observations was determined. The resulting data were analysed in a
contingency table and the hypothesis was rejected if the observed
chi square was larger than the critical value for one degree of freedom.
Using the median test, the first hypothesis was tested. The
errors obtained by each group were compared to those errors obtained
by each of the other groups. At all levels of training, the brain
damaged group made significantly more errors than the non-brain
damaged and normal groups (See Figure 1, page 23). Such differences
were all significant at the .001 level of confidence. It can be seen
from Figure 1 and Table 2 that the non-brain damaged children acquired
a learning aet at a faster and mare consistent rate than the brain
danagsd group. The non-brain damaged or retarded group showed a
decrease in errors from the first five problems to the second five
problems. Performance then remained stable until the end of the
series except for a snail rise in errors on the fourth day of
training.
The brain damaged group obtained more errors on the second
day of training than were obtained on the first day. For this
group, the number of errors then dropped on the third day, rose
on the fourth day and finally decreased sligitly on the fifth day.
There was no aigiificant difference between the non-brain
damaged and normal groups at any stages of training indicating that
they acquired a learning set at about the same rate. It is interesting

10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Sets of Problems
j
Figure 1. Median number of errors obtained by all three groups
on original presentations of five sets of problems. Differences
between the defective group and the other two groups is significant
at the .001 level of confidence at all levels of training.
Brain Damaged
----- Non-Brain Damaged
• • Normal
(
j
/

-24-
able 2
MEDIAN NUMBER OP ERRORS FOR EACH GROUP ON ORIGINAL FIVE SEES OP PROBLEMS.
Problems
Brain Damaged
Non-Brain Damaged
Normal
1-5
8.3
1.2
1.5
6-10
9.6
.6
.8
11-15
4.3
.6
.8
16-20
5.5
.7
.5
21-25
4.7
.6
.5
Differences between defective and other two groups are significant
at the .001 level at all stages.

-25-
to note, however, that until the third day of training, the
Intellectually normal children made eligibly mare errors than the
mentally retarded group although there Is no statistical difference
between the number of errors.
The first hypothesis Is supported. Mentally retarded children
performed as well ae Intellectually average children In a non-test
problem solving situation. Mentally defective children manifesting
organic brain pathology performed significantly poorer than either
the mentally retarded or the mentally average groups.
In order to measure the effects of proactive interference or
negative transfer on the three groups, performance on the reversed
problem was compared to performance on the original presentation
of a problem for each subject. The median nusber of errors far
the reversal and for the problem when It was first presentad were
determined for each of the groups. These data are presented In
Thble 3.
For all groups, at the early and middle stages of training,
the number of errors obtained when the problem was originally presented.
At least as far as total group performance la concerned, the inter¬
ference predicted as a result of the cue reversal did not generally
Increase the nusber of errors. Apparently when the problems ware
re-presented, there was no persisting tendency to respond to the
stimulus which had been positive at the first presentation. It
would seem that either the subjects approached each problem aa a
new situation, forgetting their previous responses, or else, the
re-presenting of the problems was actually facilitating rather than

interfering. Once the subjects became aware that their first
responses were now Incorrect, they could very quickly change to the
correct response.
One significance of the differences in performance between
original presentations and re-presentations of problems was determined.
Since each subject was observed under two conditions, the original
presentation and the reversal of a problem any test would be invalid.
Hence, the non-parame trie statistic, the sign test, was utilized.
The number of positive and negative differences between the errors
obtained under the two conditions was obtained and the null hypothesis
was rejected when the nuntoer of positive and negrtiive signs differed
significantly from equality. The differences between errors on the
original and reversed presentations are presented in Table 4.
For the defective group, the number of people obtaining more
errors than fewer errors on the reversals is significantly greater
at the .01 level of confidence. For this group, proactive Inter-
it
ference was marked at the last stages of training, but was not
operative at the initial stages. For the non-brain damaged and average
groups, significant proactive interference was absent at all
stages of training. In fact, the decrease in the number of errors
when problems were reversed at the end of the first five problems
is significant far the average group at the .01 level of confidence.
Hence the hypothesis that proactive Interference would be
greater for tine brain damaged group Is only partially supported for
it Is only at the last level of training that such interference is
significant.

-27-
Table 3
MEDIAN NUMBER OP ERRORS OBTAINED ON THE ORIGINAL PRESENTATION AND
REVERSAL OP PROBLEMS AT EACH STAGE OP TRAINING FCR AIL THREE GROUPS.
Bmln Damaged
Non-Brain Damaged
Average
(Defective)
(Retarded)
Problems
Original
Reversal
Original
Reversal
Original
Reversal
1-5
13
8
10
2
5
1
6-10
10.5
5
1
2
1
1
11-15
9
5
1.5
1
1
1
16-20
3
5
1
1
1
1
21-25
2
4
1
1
1
1

-28-
Ihe third hypothesis stated that there would be a greater
suppression of performance efficiency with one interpolated problem
(fourth problem reversed) than with four interpolated problems
(first problem reversed) for the brain damaged group. It was
stated that the brain damaged group, because of poor immediate
memory, poor attention span, distraetlbility, etc., would naniflest
less interference after foto* interpolated problems because they would
be more likely to forget the block which had been originally
reinforced. It was further felt that there would be more inter¬
ference in performance after one interpolated problem due to the
fact that these subjects would be less likely to shift from respond¬
ing to one block as positive to responding to the previously negt-
tive block as now positive. Such a shift after only one interpolated
problem should be difficult because of the trait of rigidity
characteristic of the brain damaged individual, liable 5 presents
the median errors obtained by each group at each level of training
for both the original and reversed problems whan the fourth
problems are reversed.
Table 6 presents the median errors obtained by each group
for both the original and reversed problems when the first problems
are reversed.
The data presented in Tables five and six are portrayed
graphically In Figures 2, 2a, 3* 3a, 4, and 4a.
Ihe sigi test was again utilized to determine the significance
of differences between performance an original and reversed
presentations of the problems. Table 7 presante the positive and

•Bible 4
THE NUMBER OP POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ERRORS
OBTAINS) ON ORIGINAL PRESENTATION AND REVERSAL OP PROBLEMS FOR
AIL THREE GROUPS AT EACH STAGE OP TRAINING,
Etain Damaged
Non-Grain Damaged
Average
Problems
(Defective)
+ -
(Retarded)
+ -
+
mm
1-5
8
7
13
5
14
2
6-10
8
11
5
10
6
10
11-15
7
11
3
8
3
2
16-20
4
12
4
7
3
10
21-25
1
11*
2
2
6
5
•* significant differences at the ,01 level of confidence.

-30-
Tkble 5
MEDIAN ERRORS OBTAINED BY EACH GROUP AT EACH LEVEL OP TRAINING BOR
ORIGINAL PRESENTATIONS AND ON REVERSED PRESENTATIONS WHEN ONLY THE
FOURTH PROBLEMS ARE REVERSED.
Brain Damaged
Non-Brain Damaged
Average
(Defectives)
(Retarded)
Problems
Original
Reversed
Original
Reversed
Origina}. Reversed
1-5
15
6
9
3
4
1
6-10
*1.5
4.5
1
1
1
1
11-15
7,5
8.5
1
1
1
1
16-20
2
2.5
1
1
1
1
21-25
1
7
1
1
1
1

Tfetble 6
THE MEDIAN ERRORS OBTAINED BY EACH OP THE THREE GROUPS AT EACH IZVEL
OP TRAINING PCR BOTH THE ORIGINAL AND REVERSED PRESENTATIONS OF PROBLEMS
WHEN ONLY THE FIRST PROBLEMS ARE REVERSED.
Brain Damaged Non-Brain Damaged
Problems Original Reversed Original Reversed
1-5
12
12.5
6-10
5
11
11-15
7.5
3.5
16-20
Í4
9
21-25
2
3
17
2
1
1
1
2
1.5
1
Average
Original Reversed
8 1
1 1
1 1
1 1
1
1
1
1


16
111
12
-33-
10
1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25
Sets of Problems
Figure 2a. Median errors on original and reversed presentations
of fourth problems for the brain damaged group.
__________ Original learning
..... Reversals

-34-
10
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25
Gets of PfoblerrB
Figure 3* Median errors on original and reversed presentations
of first problema for the non-brain damaged group.
Original learning
- - - - - Reversals

â– 35-
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25
Sets of Problems
Figure 3a. Median errors on original and reversed presentations
of fourth problems for the non-brain damaged group.
Original learning
Reversals

-36-
Sets of Prcbler®
Figure 4. Median «rara on original and reversed presentations
of first problem for the average group,
Original learning
Reversals

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-38-
Table 7
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ERRORS ON THE ORIGINAL
AND REVERSED PRESENTATIONS OF FIRST A!© FOURTH PROBLEMS FCR ALL
THREE GROUPS.
Group Reversal of First Reversal of Fourth
Problem Problem
+
-
+
«É»
Brain Damaged
15
23
12
29*
Non-Grain Damaged
16
15
10
21
Average
11
4
9
8
* â–  Significant at the ,01 level of confidence.

-39
negative differences between errors on the original and reversed
presentations and their significances for all three groups.
Since the data had been divided into two groups, presentations
and reversals of first problems and fourth problems, there were not
enough subjects in each of the groups at each stage of training to
provide a valid estimation of significance of differences. Hence
the data for all five stages of training were cantoined within each
grouping of first or fourth reversals.
Pea* all three groups, the differences in performance between
the original and reversed presentation are not significant when the
first problems are reversed. When the fourth problems are reversed,
the brain damaged group show a difference significant at the .01
level of confidence, Indicating that thi3 group made significantly
more errors on reversed problems when the fourth problems were
reversed.
Thus, the second hypothesis that proactive interference would
be greater for the brain damaged group is only partially supported,
for it is only at the last level of training that such interference
is significant.
The third hypothesis stated that for the brain damaged group
there would be a greater suppression of performance efficiency
with one Interpolated problem than with four Interpolated problems.
Results Indicate that this hypothesis is supported since this group
nade significantly mare errors on reversed problems when the fourth
problems are reversed.

CHAPTER 4
DISCUSSION
The purposes of the present study have been* first, the
comparison of the performances of mentally subnormal and mentally
normal children In a series of non-test problem solving situations,
and second, a comparison of learning processes between two different
clinical groups of mentally subnormal children.
The first hypothesis stated that* (a) mentally retarded
children will perfora similarly to intellectually average children
in a non-test problem solving situation, one which will provide the
children with an opportunity to evaluate the appropriateness of
their solutions as well as requiring them to solve problems. In
addition (b) mentally defective and mentally retarded children with
similar intellectual ability as measured by standardized intelligence
tests will perfbrm differently In a non-test problem solving
situation, with the defective children acquiring a learning set at
a much slower rate than retarded children.
The first hypothesis was completely supported. Mentally
subnormal children can perform as well as mentally normal children
in & series of non-test visual discrimination problem solving
situations. There was no significant difference between the errors
Obtained by the retarded and average groups. The learning set
acquisition curves for these two groups indicate a consistent and
rapid rate of learning. Errors decreased steadily from the first
day of training to the second day and remained consistently low
-40-

througiout the remainder of the series of problems. Actually, at
the first two stages of training, the retarded children obtained
fewer errors than the average children, although this difference
vas not statistically significant. Such a difference in performance
In this direction vas probably due to the fact that the retarded
children had slightly higher mental ages than the average children
and the fact that the retarded were considerably older than the
average children chronologically. It was felt that their greater
maturity and experience were the primary factors involved. The
preliminary pilot study indicated that older children learned
more quickly than younger children even when both groups were
retarded. It was frequently noted during the preliminary and
present study that the older retarded and defective children were
extremely alert to many extraneous and less obvious clues in the
environment and were able to utilize such cues as clues to the correct
location of the candy, i.e., the shadow cast by the examiner’s
arm on the wall, the angle of the examiner's bant elbow, and the
direction from which came the sound of the candy being placed in
the cup. Saras on and Gladwin (1958) raised the question of the
development of evaluative thinking with increasing chronological
age. Che might hypothesize that the ability to utilize what Guilford
(1956) refers to as evaluative «linking may be present in younger
children but as a child grows older, he is able to utilize more
distant but relevant cues in solving problems and evaluating solutions.
Hence, the efficiency and appropriateness with which he evaluates
his behavior may develop with age. The chronologically younger
children of average and subnormal intelligence did evaluate their

responses, but could do so only within narrow limits, i.e., they
focused an the block, the cup, and the candy, and were unaware of
the more distant cues.
The acquisition curve for the defective group Indicates that
a learning set is acquired at a much slower and more inconsistent
rate. The extreme variability of performance within this group
is notably striking. In other words, some of the brain damaged
children solved the problems very quickly while others found it
extremely difficult. Actually five of the defective subjects
were triable to solve any of the problems even after repeated trials.
Probably the heterogeneity of this group is a prlnaiy fhctor in
such variability. While the children in the defective group were
selected on the basis of brain injury alone without concomitant
hormonal or metabolic disorders, certainly the locus of brain
injury would vary from subject to subject. Some of the children
may have had difficulty in perceiving visual stimuli. Others may
have been unable to form and utilize higher order abstractions
such as, In this study, "it's always under the same block." Still
others may have had difficulty In even perceiving that there was
any patterning involved in placing the candy in the various cups.
The poor performances manifested by so many of the defective
children did not seem to stem from an inability to evaluate the
appropriateness of their responses. All except five of these
children did attenpt to evaluate what they were doing. They formed
many hypotheses throughout the training sessions and, for the most
part, were able to change hypotheses when they felt that their

responses were not confirming them. Primarily the poor performance of
the defective children seemed to be due to Intellectual and personality
factors considered to be typical of such children; i.e., rigidity,
perseveration, poor attention span, poor memory, and ccncretism.
Obese characteristics seemed to prevent the defective children
from really paying attention to the relevant aspects of the problems.
Although they formed hypotheses relating to position or pattern of
placement of the blocks, a few of the children were unable to shift
to the correct block even when the Incorrect (but preferred) block was
consistently not reinforced. These children continued to respond
Incorrectly trial after trial. Five children never solved any of
the problems. Actually after two of these subjects had completed the
entire series of problems without solving any, the examiner, out of
curiosity, continued to present the stimuli with no reinforcement
of either block. The subjects continued to select the same preferred ^
block until the examiner tired. Even when the blocks were not
alternated from side to side, the subjects continued to select the
preferred block. There was nothing outstanding in the histories, EEG's,
or test scores of these children to have Indicated or predicted their
failure to learn. Par exarple, the estimates of brain damage (mild,
deep, etc.) made by the physician who evaluated the EEG*s varied from
child to child. In two cases such damage was considered milder and more
superficial in comparison with some of the brain damaged children who
learned quickly. Test scores for these children were also comparable
to those of the other brain damaged and the ncn-brain damaged
retarded children

-44-
A number of the children, both brain damaged and retarded, did
not verbalize an hypothesis, but formed left or rigit preferences,
Por the most part, they were able to shift to another response after
continued reinforcement of the appropriate block,
Concretism vas displayed by the children who were able to develop
the concept of one block being consistently reinforced for each
Individual problem but were unable to carry this concept over to the
next different but similar problem. These children approached each
problem as a new and unfamiliar one.
However, it must be emphasized that some of the brain damaged
children (seven subjects) did solve the problems very quickly, similarly
to the non-brain damaged and normal groups, were able to acquire a learn¬
ing set early In the series, and could carry the set over to the
succeeding problems.
Hypothesis number two predicting greater proactive interference
for the defective group than for either the retarded and average
groups was only partially supported, Ihe results of the sign test
indicated that at all levels of training, for the retarded and average
©roups, there was no significant difference between the number of people
obtaining more errors and those obtaining fewer errors on reversals
of problems, A conparlscn of the median number of errors obtained
by these groups under both conditions (original and reversed presentations)
readily indicates that after the first five problems, both original and
reversed presentations of problems were quickly solved in about the
same number of trials.
For the defective group, it is only at the final stage of training

-45-
that more subjects made more errors than fewer errors on reversals.
For this group, proactive interference increased rather than decreased
as learning progressed. Inis result seems paradoxical since there
is considerable evidence indicating that, in general, as learning
progresses and the more clearly previous activities can be discriminated,
the less they should be confused with current activity (Osgood, 1953)*
The reason for an increase in interference rather than a decrease as
learning progressed for the defective group becomes clearer when a
comparison between performance on reversals after one interpolated
problem and performance after four Interpolated problems is nade.
This comparison will be emphasized in the discussion of hypothesis three.
Hypothesis three stated that for the defective group, in contrast
to the other groups, interference should be greater after one interpolated
problem than after four interpolated problems because the defective
group would be less able to shift from responding to one block as
positive in the original presentation to responding positively
to the previously negative block at the reversed presentation. This
prediction was supported. When fourth problems were reversed (one
Interpolated problem), the number of subjeots in the brain damaged
group making more errors than on the original presentation was
significantly greater (.01 level of confidence) than the number of
subjects making fewer errors. While the sign test could not be
utilized at each separate stage of training, a comparison of the median
number of errors obtained on original and reversed presentations
indicates that with four Interpolated problems, when a subject did not
have to shift suddenly to responding positively to an immediately

preceding negative stimuli» at the final stag» of training» fewer or
about the same number of errors were obtained on reversada as were
obtained on the original presentations of problems. Apparently» as
originad learning progressed and the problems became more clearly
discriminated» facilitation occurred» as might be expected according
to Osgood (1953)» When there was only one interpolated problem before
a shift in both stimulus and response is required» confusion ensued
primarily because of such difficulty in shifting response sets suddenly
for the brain damaged grot?». Hence» the paradoxical finding for this
group, when both one and four interpolated problems are considered,
that as original learning progressed to the last stage of training,
interference became maximun and significant. As problems became more
clearly discriminated, it is then more difficult for the brain damaged
child to shift to a new and directly reversed response than when the
problems are less clearly discriminated.
In summary, the above results of the current study Indicate that,
as predicted, Intellectually subnormal children and intellectually
average children with equivalent mental ages can learn equally well
in non-test problem solving situations such as the series of
visual-discrimination learning problems. However, it is the intellectually
retarded (ncn-brain damaged) who perform as efficiently in such situations
as the intellectually average. Mentally defective (brain damaged)
children functioned significantly poorer than either the average or
retarded children in solving such problems. Although, as a group, the
defective children learned slowly and at an inconsistent rate, the
variability within the group was striking. Sane children learned to

solve the problee* quickly. Other* solved thee eery slowly or not at
•ii T
than the effect* of proactive end retroactive interference on
performnee «ere considered, interference mm greeter for the defective
group then for either the retarded or the average group* • Hie
retarded and average groups shewed no significant effects of interference.
As in original learning of the problen, ^ retarded [erfimert
similarly to the average children. Again the defective children
displayed Barked variability in effect* of procotive and retroactive
interference, lb* sain implication suggested by the above statement*
la that: one cannot predict that all brain darngsd children will not
loam quickly end efficiently, this will vary flron child to child.
Too evidence fren the present study caste considerable doubt upon
the validity of standardised Intelligence teats as a ado anana of
arriving at nany conclusions concerning mental retardation. Sven «ore
glaringly suggested is the possibility that standardised intelligence
teste measure only a narrow range of preblon solving situations.
Certainly, in the present study» children with siedlar intellectual
ability as aeaeured by such teats perforas* differently in a series
of specific non-test probloa solving situations.
In addition, the data obtained in the present study raise questions
relating to the training of children of «d>-aoraal intelligence. If
defective and retarded groups with comparable intellectual ability as
neasured by intelligence testa, «sniíbet a vast difference in ability
to solve problems, it would seso necessary to provide vastly different
training and eduoatlonal program for children in training school*
and special elaseea.

-48-
As a result of the current study, several possibilities for
future study become apparent:
1. No brain damaged children of average Intellectual ability
were included In the study because the purposes of this stud/ were to
conpare children of sub-noraal intelligence with those of normal
intelligence and to conpare children of sub-normal intellectual ability
with different clinical classification. Ohose characteristics
typical of brain damaged children such as defects in memory, attention
span, etc., probably also affect the performances of brain damaged
children of average intelligence. An evaluation of the effects of
such characteristics on the performances of these children in a
non-test problem solving situation might prove valuable.
2. Further study of the wide variability between brain damaged
children seems warranted. While the loci of damage and the extent of
danage are important factors, it is often difficult to determine these
accurately. Perhaps the development of tests such as the new Illinois
Test of PsycholingLiistic Abilities which is not yet widely available
(Kirk, 1961) may prove invaluable. Such a test purports to determine
the specific psychic and linguistic function affected by the brain
damage. Perhaps there is a relationship between the type of function
disturbed or the number of functions disturbed and the ability to
efficiently solve problems.
3. Since it seems evident that learning for many brain damaged
children is Impaired by certain disturbances of personality and
intellect, one wonders whether appropriate training methods can be
developed to overcome or to minimize the effects of such disturbances
thus enabling these children to learn more efficiently?

CHAPTER 5
SIM-ÍARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The present study represents a convergence of two lines of
interest:one, a comparison of the performances of intellectually
subnormal and Intellectually average children in a non-test problem
solving situation, and twos a comparison of Learning processes between
different clinical groups of mentally subnormal children.
Much of the available literature seems to indicate that the
ability to solve problems may be better in a non-test situation than
in a test situation. There has also been evidence that the adult
level of non-test problem solving performances of many individuals mho,
as children, received test scores indicating retardation, is better
than might have been predicted from their test scores. Studies by
Bailer (1936), ttjench (19^4), and Ginsberg aid Bray (1953) indicate two
min points. Che is that retarded individuals may perform differently
(and often better) In a non-test problem solving situation than they do
in a test situation. The second point is the dear Inadequacy of many
conclusions related to mental retardation which have been based on
data obtained solely from intelligence test scores.
The problem of diagnosing and classifying mental subnormality is
coup lex and can be made only in relation to seme external criterion of
mental normality. Distinctions must be made within the classification
of mental subnormality. Samson and Gladwin (1958) distinguish between
"mental deficiency" and "mental retardation". Lbs term "retardation"
presumes no organic pathology can be detected. The term "deficiency"
presumes the presence of detectable organic pathology. There are a
-49-

-50-
nuraber of disturbances of Intellect and personality which are
considered to be characteristic of the brain damaged child and reflected
In behavior. Such characteristics are: disturbances of attention and
memory, perseveration, rigidity, and ccnoretism.
The purposes of this study are to test the following assumptions:
one, children judged to be retarded on the basis of Intelligence test
scores may perform more adequately In a non-test problem solving
situation. TWo, retarded children will perform more like normal children
In a non-test problem solving situation, but brain damaged children will
perform Inadequately in such a situation. 11» non-test problem solving
situation consisted of a series of twenty-five visual discrimination
problems. For each problem one stimulus was always positive and one was
always negative. Five problems were presented each day for five
consecutive days. At the end of each day's session either the first or
fourth problem was re-presented but with the positive and negative
stimuli reversed In order to obtain measures of proactive and
retroactive Interference.
The following hypotheses were tested:
1. Mentally retarded children will perform similarly to
Intellectually average children in a non-test problem
solving situation which gives the children an opportunity
to evaluate the appropriateness of their responses to
given stimuli.
la. Mentally defective (brain damaged) and mentally retarded
(non-brain damaged) children with the same Intellectual ability
as measured by standardized Intelligence test will perform
differently in a non-test problem solving situation. It Is

-51-
predicted that the brain damaged children, because of the
characteristic disturbances of memory, attention span,
distraetibHity, perseveration, etc* typical of such children,
will acquire a learning set at a much slower rate than
retarded or non-brain damaged children.
2. Ihe suppressive effects of previously learned responses on
new raterial is referred to as proactive interference. It
is predicted that the effects of such proactive interference
will be greater for the mentally defective children than far
the mentally retarded and average children because of the
difficulty far the defective children in shifting set from
originally learned responses to new raterial.
2a* It is predicted that there will be no significant difference
between the retarded and average groups In relation to the
effects of proactive interference.
3. With the introduction of Interpolated material, a suppression
of previously learned material is referred to as retroactive
interference. It is predicted that there will be a greater
suppression of performance efficiency far the defective grotp
than for the other two groups with one interpolated problem
because of a difficulty In shifting from one set to another
for this group. It is predicted that the defective children
will manifest less interference in performance after four
interpolated problems because they would be more likely
to have forgotten which lbocks had originally been reinforced,
3a. It is predicted that there will be no slgiificant difference

-52.
between the retarded and average groups In relation to the
effects of retroactive Interference.
Fifty-nine subjects were utilized In the study. Forty-one of
the subjects were children Institutionalized In a school for mental
defectives. Eighteen of the Institutionalized children were mentally
retarded (non-brain damaged) and twenty-three were mentally defective
(brain damaged). Eighteen of the subjects were non-institutionalized
and Intellectually average.
Analysis of the data provides the following conclusions:
1. The first hypothesis that mentally subnormal children perform
as well as mentally normal children in a non-test problem
solving situation is completely supported. There was no
significant difference between the errors obtained by the
retarded and average groups.
It was also hypothesized that the mentally defective and
mentally retarded groups with comparable Intelligence test scores
)
will perfora differently in a non-test problem solving situation
with the retarded children acquiring a learning set at a faster
and more consistent rate than the defective children. This
hypothesis is completely supported. The difference between
performances of the two groups is significant at the .001 level
of confidence.
2. Hypothesis number two predicting greater proactive interference
for the defective group than for either the retarded and
average groups was only partially supported since, for the
defective group, it is only at the final stage of training

-53-
ttaat more subjects made more errors than fewer errors on
reversals. There was no sex difference between the average
and retarded groups.
3* hypothesis three stated that for the defective groups, In
contrast to the other groups, Interference should be greater
after one interpolated problem than after four Interpolated
problems. This hypothesis was supported. The number of
subjects In the brain damaged group making more errors than
on the original presentation was significantly greater then
those subjects making fewer errors (.01 level of confidence).
There was no significant difference between performances of
the average and retarded groups.
It is felt that evidence frena the present study casts
considerable doubt upon the validity of standardized
intelligence tests as a sole means of arriving at many
conclusions concerning mental retardation. Also suggested is
the possibility that standardized intelligence tests measure
only a narrow range of problem solving situations.

List of References
Bailer, W. R. A study of the present social status of a group of adults,
who, when they were In elementary school, were classified as mentally
deficient. Genet. Psychol, ftfanog., 1936, 18, 165-244.
Davis, A., & Eels, K. Davls-Eels test of general Intelligence or problem-
solving ability. New lorie: World Book, 1953.
Davis, A., & Havl^iurst, R* J. lbs measurement of mental systems (Can
Intelligence be measured?). Sel. Mo., 1948, 66,301-316.
Eisenson, J. Examining for aphasia. (Rev. ed.) New York, Psychological
Coiporat., 1954.
Glnzberg, E., & Bray, D, W. Ihe uneducated. New York: Columbia Unlv.
Press, 1953.
Guilford, J. P, ihe structure of intellect, Psychol. Bull., 1956, 53,
267-293.
Harlow, H, P. Analysis of discrimination learning by monkeys. J. Exp.
Psychol.. 1950, 40, 26-39.
Kirkj, Samuel A., & McCarthy, James J. ihe Illinois lest of Psychollngulstlc
Abilities - an approach to differential diagnosis, Amer, Joum. Meat.
Defic., 1961, 66, 399-412.
Müench, G. A. A follow-up of mental defectives after 18 years. J. Abn. I
Soc. Psychol., 1544, 39, 4-7-418.
Osgood, C. E. Method and theory In experimental psychology. New York:
Oxford Uhiv. Press., 1953.
Rlcpelle, J. Transfer stppresslon and learning sets. J. Cage, £
Physiol. Psychol.. 1953, 46, 108-114.
Sarason, S. B. & Gladwin, T. Psychological and cultural problems In
mental subnormality: A review of research. Genet. Psychol. Monog.,
1958, 51, 3-290.
-54-

APPENDIX I. DESCRIPTION: QP THE EXPERIMENTAL AND CONTROL GROUPS.
Groups
Defective
Retarded
Average
(Brain Damaged)
(Ncn-Brain Damaged)
Hunter of Subjects
23
18
18
IQ Ranges
48-61
44-64
98-109
Chronological Age
(Ranges In nonths)
131-192
123-192
60-83
X C.A.
•„.V *
162
69
(Months)
«
165
Mental Age
(Ranges in months)
63-94
60-92
1
60-90
X C.A.
(Months)
74
78
73
-55-

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Harylyn N. Vberg mm bom June 29» 1927» at Chicago, Illinois.
In 1935» the moved to St, Petersburg, Florida, where she attended public
schools and St. Petersburg Junior College. She completed her Bachelor of
Arts degree at the University of Florida In 1950 and her Master of Arts
degree In 1957 at the sane University. In i960 she cospleted a year’s
Internship In Clinical Psychology at Washington University Medical
School In St. Louis, Missouri. Since that tine, she has been employed
as a Staff Psychologist at the Child Psychiatric Clínica of Washington
University In St. Louis.

-57-
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