First Advisor

Gerard Guthrie

Term of Graduation

Spring 1971

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology









Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 45 pages)


A labeling variable suggested by Wendell Johnson's "diagnosogenic" theory of the onset of stuttering was included in this study of the disfluencies of normal speaking college students in order to explore further the hypothetical relationship between normal disfluency and the onset of stuttering. A total of 60 Ss were randomly assigned to the following groups, each containing 10 Ss: I. Labeling Chastisement plus Contingent "wrong;" II. Labeling Chastisement plus Yoked (non-contingent) "wrong;" III. Labeling Chastisement - No "wrong;" IV. No Labeling Chastisement Contingent "wrong;" V. No Labeling Chastisement - Yoked "wrong;" VI. No Labeling Chastisement - No "wrong" (control). All Ss read aloud for 23 minutes, a three minute Baseline Period in which no experimental manipulations were introduced, followed by a 20 minute Experimental Period. Following the Baseline PerIod, Ss in the three Labeling Chastisement Groups were chastised for "stuttering" and asked to try not to. During the Experimental Period, Ss in the two Contingent "wrong" Groups were presented "wrong" immediately following a repetition or prolongation. A yoked design was used, which enabled the Ss in the Yoked "wrong" Groups to hear this same "wrong," though non-contingently throughout their reading.

The results showed that neither the Labeling Chastisement procedure nor non-contingent (Yoked) "wrong" caused an increase in disfluencies as predicted. The Ss in the Contingent "wrong" Groups decreased disfluencies during the Experimental Period, supporting the results of earlier studies which had reported that response-contingent stimuli reduce the disfluencies of normal speakers, while non-response-contingent stimuli have no effect upon disfluencies.

Although this observation is in direct opposition to many onset of stuttering theories which posit that stuttering originates, in part, when the normal disfluencies of children are punished by overly-critical parents, it was noted that several theoretically-important differences exist between normal speaking college students and young children learning to talk. Normal speaking adults have had many years of speaking experience, during which time they have developed large verbal repertoires, enabling them to replace an undesirable response (disfluency) with a more rewarding one (fluency); Young children, on the other hand, have not yet mastered the complex skills required to speak correctly, and are likely to have an extremely narrow range of verbal response alternatives. Consequently, these young children, because of their lack of a correct response, may be more likely than normal adult speakers to respond to the disapproval of their disfluencies by altering their behavior in a maladaptive manner.

Some of the normal speakers in this study showed an extreme vulnerability to the experimental manipulations as well as anticipation of disapproval from the E. Anticipation of speech difficulty and vulnerability to environmental influences are two factors which some theorists feel play an important role in the onset of stuttering. However, the Ss in this study who showed these behaviors were able to speak fluently when under pressure from the E to do so.

Because of the vast differences between normal speaking adults and young children learning to talk, it was suggested that further experimentation with normal speaking adults engaged in verbal tasks in hopes of gaining insight into the hypothetical relationship between normal disfluency and the onset of stuttering might prove fruitless. Two alternative approaches were suggested. First, detailed observations of the interactions between adults and children in natural settings would undoubtedly prove enlightening. The second suggested approach calls for the laboratory study of adults engaged in a non-verbal task which involves interactions and requires behaviors comparable to those involved in the learning of speech by young children. Nine variables were suggested which would provide an ideal paradigm for this type of study.


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