SKINNER’S OPERANT CONDITIONING
Beginning in the 1930’s, Skinner started his experimentation
on the behavior of animals.
Skinner's quest was to observe the relationship between observable
stimuli and response. Essentially,
he wanted to know why these animals behaved the way that they do.
Skinner controlled his experiments by using “Skinner boxes.”
The Skinner box was a contraption that would automatically
dispense food pellets and electric shocks.
Skinner believed that the learning he observed in his Skinner
boxes could apply to human behavior. He called this learning
operant conditioning. Operant conditioning can be described as
behavior adjustments as a result of greater or lesser negative or
positive reinforcement and punishment.
Skinner hypothesized that human behaviors were controlled
by rewards and punishment and that their behaviors can be explained
by principles of operant conditioning
PRINCIPLES OF OPERANT CONDITIONING
The main principles of operant conditioning, as
defined by Skinner, are reinforcement, punishment, shaping, extinction,
discrimination, and generalization.
KEY CONCEPTS OF OPERANT CONDITIONING
The process in which a behavior is strengthened, and thus, more
likely to happen again.
Making a behavior stronger by following
the behavior with a pleasant stimulus.
For example, a rat presses a lever and receives food.
Making a behavior stronger by taking away
a negative stimulus. For example, a rat presses a lever and
turns off the electric shock
The process in which a behavior is weakened,
and thus, less likely to happen again.
Reducing a behavior by removing a pleasant stimulus
when the behavior occurs.
If the rat was previously given food for each lever press, but
now receives food consistently when not pressing the lever (and
not when it presses the lever), the rat will learn to stop pressing
Reducing a behavior by presenting an unpleasant stimulus
when the behavior occurs.
If the rat previously pressed the lever and received food and
now receives a shock, the rat will learn not to press the lever.
Technique of reinforcement used to teach new behaviors.
At the beginning, people/animals are reinforced for easy
tasks, and then increasingly need to perform more difficult tasks
in order to receive reinforcement. For example, originally the rat
is given a food pellet for one lever press, but we gradually
increase the number of times it needs to press to receive food,
the rat will increase the number of presses.
The elimination of the behavior by stopping reinforcement
of the behavior. For example,
a rat who received food when pressing a bar, receives food no longer,
will gradually decrease the amount of lever presses until the rat
eventually stops lever pressing
In generalization, a behavior may be performed in more than
one situation. For example,
the rat who receives food by pressing one lever, may press a second
lever in the cage in hopes that it will receive food.
Learning that a behavior will be rewarded in one situation, but not
another. For example, the
rat does not receive food from the second lever and realizes that
by pressing the first lever only, he will receive food.
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