Academic journal article The Psychological Record

The Effect of Token Reinforcement on WISC-R Performance for Fifth- through Ninth-Grade American Indians

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

The Effect of Token Reinforcement on WISC-R Performance for Fifth- through Ninth-Grade American Indians

Article excerpt

Results from intelligence tests reflect not only ability, but the influence of other factors including cultural background and motivation (Settler, 1988). Unfortunately, the role of these other factors is often overlooked in the interpretation of results of intelligence tests. Overlooking these factors is unfortunate because results of intelligence tests continue to be critical variables in diagnosing learning problems and determining eligibility for special education programs.

To minimize the effect of factors other than ability on results, test authors have stressed the importance of establishing rapport, following standard administration procedures, and using verbal praise for effort (Thorndike, Hagen, & Settler, 1986; Wechsler, 1974). Though these procedures are no doubt helpful, as Ayllon and Kelly (1972) noted, the assumption that each child will be equally motivated to perform regardless of his or her reinforcement history is incorrect. Further, if differences in motivation are not taken into account, noncognitive differences may be interpreted as differences in intellectual performance (Scarr, 1981).

Numerous studies have investigated the effect of motivation on performance on intelligence tests through the use of tangible rewards during testing. Many have found enhanced performance as a result of the use of tangible rewards, some have found mixed effects, whereas others have not found an effect. It is difficult to draw conclusions from these studies because of differences in the methodologies employed such as use of immediate or delayed rewards, and failure to consider subject variables that might affect performance such as age, socioeconomic level, and racial/ethnic background. Conflicting evidence has been found when rewards have been used with minority children. For example, rewards were found to enhance IQ scores of lower-class black boys (Terrell, Taylor, & Terrell, 1978; Terrell, Terrell, & Taylor, 1980) and lower-class black boys and girls (Bradley-Johnson, Johnson, Shanahan, Rickert, & Tardona, 1984). Enhanced performance was not found in other studies, however, for low-income black boys (Sweet & Ringness, 1971); for disadvantaged, black preschool children (Quay, 1971; 1975); or for low- and middle-class black children (Tiber & Kennedy, 1964). Rewards were found to enhance performance for elementary-age Hispanic children (Galbraith, Ott, & Johnson, 1986).

Differences in motivation could be responsible, at least in part, for differences observed in intelligence test results between various racial and ethnic groups. For example, studies have found disproportionately large numbers of American Indians labeled mentally retarded based on results of standardized norm-referenced tests (McShane, 1988).

Though relatively little research has been carried out on the intelligence test performance of American Indian students, a consistent finding in existing studies is that American Indians as a group score significantly lower on the verbal than the performance scale of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised. Scores for American Indians are typically in the low average range with an 8- to 19-point discrepancy between verbal and performance IQ results (McShane & Plas, 1984).

A review of the literature on the use of tangible rewards during intelligence testing revealed only one study where the effect of tangible rewards had been investigated with American Indian students. Conrad (1974) administered four subtests from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) to fourth- and fifth-grade Papago children. One group received the WISC under standard testing conditions, the other was given a penny for every correct response. The group who received pennies scored significantly higher than those children in the standardized administration condition.

Brandt (1984) suggested that a cultural factor involving rules that govern question-answer behavior may affect test performance for American Indians. …

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