The Effects of Tangible and Social Rewards On a Selected Motor Activity Performance of the Institutionalized Mentally Retarded

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Performance and Recreation

First Advisor

James W. Larson

Advisor Department

Human Performance and Recreation


This study was designed to determine the effect of tangible and social rewards on the selected motor activity performance of the institutionalized severely/profoundly retarded. Furthermore, this study was designed to make a comparison between tangible and social rewards and also to determine which reward in each system, tangible or social, was most effective. The tangible rewards in this study included food, toy, radio, magazine, and token. The social rewards in this study referred to physical contact, praise, attention, a smile, and approval. The subjects of the present study consisted of six institutionalized mentally retarded children. In this study, the subjects were presented a reward from a reward group, tangible or social, prior to riding a stationary bike. The length of time the subject rode recorded to the nearest second was the score for the reward. The performance scores for all six subjects were compared under both tangible and social reinforcement conditions using the Friedman Two-Way Analysis of Variance by Ranks with an Alpha level set at.05. Major findings of the study were: (1) The statistical comparison of the performance responses for subjects on the stationary bike training under both conditions of reinforcement indicated a significant difference between tangible and social rewards. Preferred tangible reinforcers were superior to social reinforcers regarding the influence on the performance of stationary bike training. (2) The comparisons regarding difference among various types of reward under each system, tangible or social, yielded a significant difference in the influence of stationary bike training performance. In the tangible reward system, food was the most effective reward. Next in order of effectiveness were the rewards of a radio, toy, magazine, and a token. While in the social reward system, physical contact was the most effective. Next in order of effectiveness in rewards were praise, approval, attention, and smile.