The effects of induced muscle tension on word association

Date

1964

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Abstract

Hull and Spence have proposed that drive acts on habit strength in a multiplicative fashion and that drive acts to increase competition among responses by increasing the number of available responses for evocation. More specificaHy, Spence and Taylor suggest that drive is facilitating in a situation in tiiich there is a strong dominant response with a few weak competing responses, and disrupting in a situation in which the dominant response is weak and there are many strong competing responses. These theoretical formulations were tested in this stuc^y. Perfonnance on the word association test was used as the dependent variable in testing these formulations because group norms provide an estimate of the relative strength of competing responses. The traditional instructions for the word association test were modified; a S was aHowed to give five responses to a single stimulus word instead of a single response. In a pilot study, response word norms were established for 33 words of the Kent-Rosancff Word Association test. The eight words that elicited the largest number of common responses (high stimulus words) and the eight stimulus words that elicited the fewest common responses (low stimulus words) were selected from the list, and these 16 words were used in the actual study. The remaining 17 stimulus words were used to preselect Ss in terms of the number of elicited common responses. Subjects used were the 25 per cent who gave the largest number of common responses and the 25 per cent who gave the smaHest number of common responses. Commonality of response was measured in two different ways. One measure was based on group frequency norms there the first five most frequently given responses to a stimulus word were considered commone Ihe second measure, which was essentially a check on the first measure, was made in terms of the order of response. The first two responses given by an individual were considered to be common for that individual. Induced muscle tension was employed as the drive operation. The Thylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (MAS) was administered in order to obtain an index of anxiety. The Ss were presented with a word association test composed of both high and low commonality value stimulus words. Each stimulus word was projected on a screen five times; the Ss were asked to respond with a word each time the stimulus word appeared. The Ss in the drive groups were asked to squeeze a hand dynamometer to one-third of their maximum squeeze each time a stimulus word appeared and to maintain the grip until they had thought of a word and written it down. After a short delay the same list of stimulus words was presented a second time and this constituted the recall phase of testing. There were four groups of Ss. One group was made up of Ss who gave veiy common responses (high common Ss) and who were placed in a drive condition. A second group of high common Ss acted as a control group. The third group was composed of Ss who gave few common responses (low common Ss) and who were placed in a drive condition. The fourth group was made up of low common Ss who acted as a control group. Both the high and the low stimulus words were presented to all four groups. The specific drive hypotheses were that drive would be facilitating for high common Ss and disrupting for low common Ss, and that drive would be facilitating on high stimulus words and disrupting on low stimulus wordse It was also predicted that drive would be most facilitating for high common Ss presented with high stimulus words and most disrupting for low common Ss presented with low stimulus words. The hypotheses were the same for both the free association and recall phases of testing. Essential to the testing of the drive hypotheses was the confinnation of the hypothesis that high common Ss would recall more common responses as well as a greater ratio of common to idiosyncratic responses. Also of interest in the study was the relationship of MAS scores to commonality scores. Analyses of variance and Pearson-r correlations were used in analyzing the data. The results indicated that high common Ss recalled more common responses and a greater ratio of common to idiosyncratic or noncommon responses than did the low common Ss. Thus, the high common Ss had a greater relative difference between their dominant responses and their nondominant competing responses than did the low common Ss. The hypothesis that drive would be facilitating for high common Ss and disrupting for low common Ss in the free association phase of testing was supported at the 10 per cent level of significance. The same hypothesis for the recall phase of testing was not supported. The hypothesis that drive would be facilitating on high stimulus words and disrupting on low stimulus words in the recall phase of testing was supported at the 10 per cent level of significance. The same hypothesis for the free association phase of testing was not supported. The hypothesis that drive would be most facilitating for high common Ss presented with high stimulus words and most disrupting for low common Ss presented with low stimulus words was not supported for either the free association or recall phase of testing. The means for both the free association and recall phases of testing, however, were in the predicted direction. A commonality response decrement under high drive was noted when the word association test was scored in the traditional manner. This was interpreted in terms of Broen and Storms' 'ceiling hypothesis.' A negative correlation between high anxiety as measured by the MAS and commonality of responses was also found. An extension of the study with clinical populations was suggested. The results of the study indicated that a molar variable such as word association and a complex interaction such as that of word association and drive can be explained to some degree by general principles of learning.

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Keywords

Association tests, Performance, Anxiety

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