November 28, 2011
In a world that was ruled by psychoanalytic studies, and Thorndike’s puzzle box to explain behaviorism, B.F. Skinner was a revolutionary in the world of psychology. His studies and reports on operant conditioning has not only survived ridicule and skepticism in his time but has also survived the passage of time and social evolution to incorporate his theories several decades later. By learning from and expanding upon Skinner’s schedule of reinforcement the world of social and academic learning has evolved from a puzzling act to a learned process that could be understood the world over.
During his research Skinner developed a theory to modify behavior believing that behavior can be created because of a positive or negative stimulus or environment, instead of just instinctually responding to stimuli, like scratching an itch. While he did not create the foundation of behavior modification, his research allowed him to expand upon already existing theories developed by Pavlov and Thorndike. Skinner’s theory consisted of two types of behavior, respondent and operant behavior (Olsen & Hergerhahn, 2009). To go along with, and help modify unwanted behavior Skinner developed two types of conditioning. Type S also known as respondent conditioning and Type R also known as operant conditioning. Type S conditioning is the equivalent to classic conditioning as described by Pavlov and focuses primarily on the significance of the stimulus creating a preferred response or behavior (Olsen & Hergerhahn, 2009). Whereas type R conditioning is similar to Thorndike’s instrumental conditioning, by focusing upon the response after the stimulus (Olsen & Hergerhahn, 2009).
The theory of operant conditioning focuses on the four types of stimuli that can elicit a response. Positive reinforcement is an act that adds to a reinforcement that will emit an increase in...