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Twelve high risk and 27 low risk 10-year-old male children performed a nonsense syllable discrimination task administered under each of three reinforcement conditions: neutral information feedback, and two response-contingent conditions, praise and censure. Risk status was determined on the basis of index parent diagnosis (schizophrenic or nonschizophrenic) using DSM-III criteria. Although the two groups did not differ significantly in the mean number of errors made in learning the task under the neutral condition, when reinforcement was provided by subject's mother during both praise and censure conditions, schizophrenics' offspring made approximately twice as many errors as did offspring of controls. Either form of social reinforcement administered by the mother, or merely the mother's voice itself, has a uniquely disruptive effect on the learning efficiency of the offspring of schizophrenics.

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