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Skin conductance and the effects of time distribution on encounter group learning : marathons versus spaced groups

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Title:Skin conductance and the effects of time distribution on encounter group learning : marathons versus spaced groups
Authors:Loomis, Thomas P.
Keywords:Group relations training
Date Issued:1976
Abstract:The purposes of this study were to compare the effectiveness of marathons and spaced groups in producing personal changes in their members immediately after the group and on a two month followup, to examine differences in arousal level, as measured by skin conductance, between marathon members and twice-weekly group members, and finally to investigate the relationship between the amount of changes members undergo on different personality measures and their overall average arousal in the encounter groups. Proponents of the marathon argue that the conditions of the marathon produce high levels of arousal which is more conducive to personal change than lower levels of arousal found in spaced groups. Empirical investigations of marathons and spaced groups have shown that both time formats can be effective in producing change in their members, however, studies specifically comparing the relative effectiveness of massed and spaced groups have shown inconclusive results, primarily because of methodological problems. Further, it has not been shown that the marathons in fact produce higher levels of arousal than spaced groups, or that arousal is an important variable in encounter group learning. Findings in other areas of learning suggest that moderate levels of arousal produce the most learning. Findings in other areas of learning also suggest that learning acquired under conditions of spaced practice is retained longer than learning acquired under conditions of massed practice. This would suggest that changes for members of marathon groups would not be maintained for a length of time after the groups were over. In this study 41 student volunteers at the University of Hawaii were randomly assigned to five groups: two twice-weekly groups, which met eight times twice-weekly for three hours each time, two marathons, which met continuously for 24 hours, or a non-treatment control. There were two pairs of experienced leaders, each pair leading one twice-weekly and one marathon group. During the groups the group members' skin conductances were recorded and expressed as a percentage of their previously estimated maximum and minimum skin conductance ranges. The dependent measures, consisting of the Personal Orientation Inventory, Rotter's Locus of Control, and Shapiro's Adjective Check List, were administered at the same time before the groups, immediately after the groups, and two months after the groups were over. Contrary to expectation, it was found that members of the marathons had significantly lower overall skin conductances than members of the twice-weekly groups. Breaking each group's total time into eight three hour blocks, trend analyses of skin conductances found that for the marathons arousal levels dropped during the middle of the groups rather than increasing as had been predicted. Also, during the last six hours, a critical time for transference of learning to the outside world, the members of the twice-weekly groups were significantly more aroused than members of the marathons. However; linear and curvilinear regression analyses found no significant relationship between gain scores on the dependent measures and the overall average arousal levels. There were no significant differences between the treatment groups and the control group on the post-test or the followup. Gain score analyses indicate treatment group members gained significantly more on the Feeling Reactivity subscale between pre-test and post-test than the control. Within group comparisons show significant pre/post changes on 14 scales for the treatment group, and all IS dependent measures had significant changes between pre-test and followup. The control group also had four significant pre/followup changes. It is argued that factors independently influencing the control group were primarily the causes of these changes. On the post-test the twice-weekly groups were significantly better than the marathons on Existentiality, Nature of Man Constructive, and Locus of Control. Within group changes show the twice-weekly groups had 14 pre/post and 14 pre/followup significant positive changes. The marathons had six pre/post significant within group changes and 11 pre/followup significant positive within group changes. This suggests the possibility of a "hibernation effect" for marathon members, and it is speculated that transference of learning to the "back home" setting takes longer for marathon members.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1976.
Bibliography: leaves 114-121.
viii, 121 leaves ill
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Educational Psychology

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