Handbook of Mental Deficiency: Psychological Theory and Research

By Norman R. Ellis | Go to book overview

sessing anxiety level in defectives would constitute a necessary first step in a research program in this area. One phase of such validation work could very feasibly involve extensive observation of the performances in complex and simple learning situations of defectives identified as low-anxious and high-anxious by the assessment technique in question. In addition, the study of the effects of high and low stress on defectives' performance in such learning situations could shed considerable light on the utility of the Hull-Spence SHR X D formulation for understanding defectives' behavior. This general area has hardly been touched by research workers interested in mental deficiency.


A SUMMING-UP

Theory-oriented behavioral research using defectives as subjects is often criticized on the basis that the experimenters involved are not really interested in mental deficiency. A typical expression of this attitude may be found in a paper by McPherson ( 1958). After summarizing 14 studies published in the decade prior to 1958 and noting the upsurge in interest in the experimental approach to the study of learning in defectives, McPherson (p. 876) commented as follows: "This impression of increased interest in the experimental approach to learning and mental deficiency is negated somewhat by the realization that four of these papers have utilized mental defectives because of their usefulness for learning data and theory per se, rather than because of an interest in this type of learner."

Persons sharing this attitude rarely, if ever, are explicit about exactly what constitutes a "genuine interest" in the defective learner. The present writer would take the position that the psychologist as scientist is basically concerned with behavioral processes, or, put in other terms, with the discovery of laws that will allow him to predict behavior. Whether the behavior in question happens to be that of the mentally defective, the normal, or some infrahuman species, the scientist's obligation is to make use of the frame of reference which he considers most promising in the way of leading him to such laws. If, in the search for behavioral laws applicable to the behavior of defectives, one is led to abandon more traditional ways of studying defectives' learning processes in favor of a different approach (e.g., the application of Hull-Spence or any other theory), it is difficult to understand why this amounts to a lack of interest in the defective, per se.

In the previous section of this chapter, three approaches within the Hull-Spence framework to the study of defectives' behavior were described and illustrated. All three--the curve-fitting approach, the gross comparative approach, and the noncomparative approach--show considerable promise of being of reciprocal benefit to both the field of behavior theory and the field of mental deficiency, in the present writer's opinion. To the extent that such research helps to verify any of the various Hull-Spence postulates, or to show in what fashion they are inadequate, to this extent will behavior theory benefit from the activity. And to whatever extent behavior theory benefits, the understanding of defectives' behavior cannot help but be

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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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