The Behavioral Reward System In Child Psychopathology As Indexed By Stimulus Generalization

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




J. A. Gray (1982) has theorized that stimulus generalization is a reflection of activity in the reward system of the brain. Quay (1985) has hypothesized that Conduct Disordered children have an overactive reward system and consequently should exhibit more stimulus generalization relative to other broad-band psychopathological disorders of childhood.Sixty-one children (10 subjects in the Conduct Disordered group, 17 subjects in the Attentional Problem group, 13 subjects in the Anxious Withdrawn group, and 21 children in the Normal Control group) participated in this experiment testing auditory stimulus generalization. Subjects were males between the ages of 8 to 12 and were selected on the basis of their scores on the Revised Behavior Problem Checklist. Contrary to the experimental hypothesis, Conduct Disordered subjects did not exhibit greater stimulus generalization scores. However, this nonsignificant finding may have been due, in part, to a methodological flaw in the stimulus generalization task (inclusion of a contrast tone during the training period) which may have served to attenuate the scores.


Psychology, Clinical

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