Handbook of Mental Deficiency: Psychological Theory and Research

By Norman R. Ellis | Go to book overview

resting activation in institutionalized defectives comes from studies of skin conductance; however, there is also some support for this from experiments on eye movements and heart rate. There is nevertheless a need to broaden the basis for this conclusion by testing it with other measures and to ascertain whether it results from level of nervous system activity or from some peripheral mechanism.

Although the evidence from studies of basal level is rather limited results regarding responsiveness to short-duration stimulation have been found with a larger group of measures. In general, defectives are less responsive to stimuli than are normals. This conclusion is based on measures of GSR, EEG, phosphene thresholds, change of pulse rate, and vascular response. Although defectives appear less responsive to stimuli, there is contradictory evidence from a measure of respiration rate and from a study of the startle response. Moreover, when differences in basal level or response amplitude do exist between defectives and normals, the differences are very small and there is a marked degree of overlap between the groups. Thus responsiveness is hardly diagnostic of mental deficiency.


CONCLUSIONS

There is some evidence to support the notion that mental defectives are less responsive to stimuli of short duration than are normals, and there is reason to believe that such a defect in responsiveness is related to the diffuse brain abnormality found in this group. Whether lowered responsiveness is a function of abnormality in the reticular formation of the midbrain or whether it is a reflection of more extensive neuropathology may be a question that can only be answered by subjecting infrahuman animals to localized experimental lesions.

Should a concept of lowered responsiveness in the mentally deficient be established more firmly, it could have implications for analyses of defects in more complex behavioral functions. It may be, for instance, that the slower reaction time of the mentally deficient is related to a generally low responsiveness to short-duration stimuli. In learning experiments, certain of the mentally deficient may differ from normals, not so much in the rate at which they learn, but in their initial and final level of response to the learning material ( Berkson, 1960b; Franks & Franks, 1960).

However, it is clear from the experiments that have been done that defectives are not always less responsive to short-duration stimuli than are normals. In some instances, they have been shown to give greater responses. Future studies would do well to clarify the conditions under which a concept of "lower responsiveness" of defectives holds and when it must be qualified.

Another issue concerns the response level of defectives when presented with a relatively unchanging environment. In this instance, the results of experiments appear to vary with the group of defectives studied. It is possible that results with resting measures depend on the nature of the environment as well as the group.

A study of the relationship between basal or prestimulus levels to the

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Handbook of Mental Deficiency: Psychological Theory and Research
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contributors vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • Contents xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I 9
  • 1 - Field Theory in Mental Deficiency 11
  • Introduction 11
  • References 36
  • 2 - A Social Learning Approach to Mental Retardation 41
  • Summary 86
  • References 86
  • 3 - Hull - Spence Behavior Theory and Mental Deficiency 92
  • Introduction 92
  • A Summing-Up 129
  • References 129
  • 4 - The Stimulus Trace and Behavioral Inadequacy 134
  • Summary 155
  • References 155
  • 5 - The Role of Attention in Retardate Discrimination Learning 159
  • References 220
  • 6 - Intelligence and Brain Damage 224
  • References 251
  • 7 - Genetic Aspects of Intelligent Behavior 253
  • References 291
  • 8 - The Application of Piaget's Theory to Research in Mental Deficiency 297
  • Introduction 297
  • References 323
  • 9 - Social Psychologies of Mental Deficiency 325
  • Summary 348
  • References 348
  • 10 - Psychological Studies of Mental Deficiency in the Soviet Union 353
  • Part II 389
  • 11 - Learning: Verbal, Perceptual-Motor, and Classical Conditioning 391
  • References 420
  • 12 Discrimination Learning 424
  • 12 Discrimination Learning 436
  • 13 - Problem - Solving and Conceptual Behavior 439
  • Conclusions 458
  • References 458
  • 14 - Sensory Processes and Mental Deficiency 463
  • Summary 476
  • References 476
  • 15 - Perceptual Processes 480
  • Conclusions 506
  • References 507
  • 16 - Language and Communication of Mental Defectives 512
  • Introduction 512
  • Summary and Overview 550
  • References 550
  • 17 - Psychophysiological Studies in Mental Deficiency 556
  • 17 - Psychophysiological Studies in Mental Deficiency 569
  • References 571
  • 18 - Abnormal Behavior and Mental Deficiency 574
  • Introduction 574
  • Summary and Conclusions 595
  • References 595
  • 19 - Motor Skills in Mental Deficiency 602
  • Summary 626
  • References 626
  • 20 - Research in Activity Level 632
  • Summary 657
  • References 657
  • 21 - Academic Skills 664
  • Summary 687
  • References 687
  • Contributors 691
  • Name Index 699
  • Subject Index 713
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