A comparison of the effects of praise and encouragement on the production rate of individuals with mental retardation



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Texas Tech University


Various techniques, such as goal setting and modeling (Kleibham, 1976), verbal and graphic informational feedback (jens & Shores, 1969; Weinberg, 1977), and social praise (Bellamy, Peterson, & Close, 1975; Ditty, 1983) have been utilized by researchers in attempts to increase the work production rate of individuals with mental retardation. Research findings have indicated that although social praise increases the production rates of workers with mental retardation, it does not foster self-motivated work performance, nor does it greatly contribute to the maintenance of elevated production rates. In contrast, research findings have suggested that when workers with mental retardation are allowed to reinforce themselves for their work, they may become more productive and less dependent on external stimulation, such as social praise (Wehman, Schutz, Bates, Renzaglia, & Karan, 1978). In addition, a review of relevant literature currently conducted by Rusch, Martin, and White (1985) has suggested that workers with mental retardation need to be exposed to self-control techniques for the independent maintenance of acquired work behaviors.

The present research was an attempt to investigate the effectiveness of praise as compared to encouragement in increasing the work productivity of workers with mental retardation. The major research question addressed in this study was whether encouragement is more effective than praise in increasing the work productivity of workers with mental retardation.

The participants in this study were 32 workers with mental retardation employed in sheltered workshops. All participants worked on a simple assembly task and received praise, encouragement, and no verbal feedback for work performed. Results yielded by this study confirmed results yielded by other studies. Although praise increased the production rate of workers with mental retardation, it did not greatly contribute to the durability of increased production rates. Encouragement was not found to be superior to praise on the criterion measure. However, differences were found between praise and encouragement. Limitations and interpretations of these findings were discussed and recommendations for future research were presented.



Praise -- Psychological aspects, Encouragement -- Psychological aspects, People with mental disabilities -- Employment