Date of Award
Master of Arts
Nancy C. Higgins
James D. Evans
Gary V. Hartman
This study applied statistical analysis to the word association method of psychological research to investigate the element of conscious attention, defined as those mental processes which deliver a word a s a response to a stimulus word.
The subjects were 15 males and 15 females from a middle-class suburban community. They were tested individually with a 100 - item word association test. Each subject participated in two testing sessions, and the word association test was administered twice during each session.
Two variables were measured, response time and response reproduction. These were used to classify each subject's reactions to the test stimulus words as being primary, secondary, or tertiary responses. Only the responses given in the second trial of each testing session were classified.
For each testing session, primary responses were those that were reproduced correctly and had response times equal to or less than a subject's mean response time for the first trial of the testing session. Secondary responses were (a) those that were reproduced correctly with response times greater than the subject' s mean response time and (b) those that were reproduced incorrectly with response times equal to or less than t he subject's mean response time. Tertiary responses were t hose that were reproduced incorrectly with response times greater than the subject's mean response time.
The data were analyzed by means of correlated t tests. These were the major findings :
- There was a significant reduction in t he subject's mean response times from the first to the second testing session .
- There was a significant increase in the subjects' mean number of correct response reproductions from t he first to the second testing session.
- The mean number of primary responses did not change significantly from the first to the second testing session.
- The mean number of secondary responses of the type involving timely but incorrect response reproductions significantly decreased from the first to the second testing session .
- The mean number of secondary responses of t he type involving correct but delayed response reproductions significantly increased from the first to the second testing session .
- There was a significant decrease in the mean number of tertiary responses from the first to the second testing session. In addition, the study identified for each subject specific stimulus words to which the subject had tertiary responses in both testing sessions. The average number of such wo r ds per subject was approximately 3 .
The results of the study indicated that the word association test can be used to identify areas of loss of conscious attention which represent inner conflict.
Batchelor, Laura A., "The Use of Word Association to Examine Conscious Attention" (1989). Theses. 360.
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