Changes from Within

Topics: Behaviorism, Reinforcement, Operant conditioning Pages: 6 (2115 words) Published: May 1, 2013
Behavioral therapy was developed by American behaviorist Burrhus Fredric Skinner. Behavior modification is a form of therapy used to change bad behaviors with good ones by positive and negative reinforcement. As defined by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, behavioral therapy is defined as “the use of basic learning techniques, such as conditioning, biofeedback, reinforcement, or aversion therapy, to alter human behavior.” Behavioral therapy is not only used in adults, but often in children and animals. It is helpful to people who have phobias, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and much more. Behavior modification is based on operant conditioning and classical condition. It can be aided by techniques such as implosion therapy, reciprocal therapy and token economy among others.

Born on March 20, 1904 in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, Burrhus Skinner was born to a father who was a lawyer and a mother who was a housewife. His one brother died at the age of sixteen from cerebral aneurism. Skinner continued to be an outstanding but curious child. As a child, he made a flotation device that separated fresh berries from mature berries. It assisted in his selling of berries from door to door. His later inventions included the air crib, cumulative recorder, operant conditioning chamber, teaching machine and the pigeon guided missile. Skinner went to college in New York, where he majored in English Literature and minored in Romance languages. He received his Bachelor’s degree in English. He however, did not succeed in his attempt to become a fictional writer. When he first got involved in philosophy and psychology, he came upon Bertrand Russell’s book, An Outline of Philosophy. In Russell’s book, psychologist John B. Watson writes about his own personal behavioralist philosophies. During this time, Skinner became more interested in his surroundings. He was curious about people’s actions and behaviors to their surroundings and situations. As a result, Burrhus moved on to psychology and left his career of fictional writing behind. In 1928, he was accepted into Harvard University’s graduate program. He received his Master’s degree in psychology in 1930, his doctorate following in 1931. He remained at Harvard University until 1936 to conduct research. Later in 1931, he moved in order to become a professor at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis. While teaching at the university, he met Yvonne Blue. They married shortly after meeting and had two daughters, Julie and Deborah. Skinner’s youngest daughter, Deborah, is best known for being the first to be raised in the air crib.

At Indiana University, he took the position of Chairman of Psychology for only an academic year until 1947. Skinner was then invited back to Harvard in 1948 where he continued to do the rest of his research during his career. On the eighteenth of August in 1990, Burrhus Skinner died of leukemia. His remains are buring in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His advances in psychology are often compared to those of Sigmund Freud.

Behavior modification uses both positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement highlights good and positive behavior with a pleasant stimulus such as praise, encouragement, and reward. An example would be “good job” or “that was great.” Negative reinforcement rejects bad behavior with often times a punishment. A rat that is place in a box immediately receives shocks until it presses the lever. This is called an unpleasant stimulus. There are two times of punishment: positive punishment and negative punishment. Positive punishment is causing an unpleasant stimulus after the unwanted behavior occurs. For instance, a rat is shocked after pressing a lever. The rat will not press the lever again because it is receiving an unpleasant stimulus. Negative reinforcement is the removal of a pleasant...
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