Shaping Behaviour

Topics: Reinforcement, B. F. Skinner, Operant conditioning Pages: 4 (1195 words) Published: December 3, 2010
Shaping behavior is an aspect of behavior analysis that gradually teaches new behavior through the use of reinforcement until the target behavior is achieved (Wolfgang 272). In order for shaping to be successful, it is important to clearly define the behavioral objective and the target behavior. Also, in order to gradually achieve the target behavior, a teacher must know when to deliver or withhold reinforcement (Wolfgang 37). Many behaviors are taught by shaping, and it is used in many different settings. For example, parents use shaping when they praise a young child profusely the first time he dresses himself, even if he has made a few mistakes. Later, they will only complement the child if he has dressed himself perfectly (Alberto and Troutman, 2003).

B. F. Skinner was an important theorist for the behavior analysis model of discipline. His findings about how voluntary actions are affected by what happens immediately after a given act is performed has earned him respect as perhaps the greatest behavioral psychologist of all time. Skinner never concerned himself with classroom discipline but instead dealt with human behavior; it was his followers that saw the applicability of his findings and used Skinner’s principal teachings to devise the procedure of behavior modification using Skinner’s procedure of shaping student behavior intentionally through reinforcement.

To increase a student’s behavior, a positive reinforcer is used immediately after the behavior is presented, the premise being that if the child does something and is rewarded, then they are more likely to repeat the act. Any of the following could be used: edible reinforcers (foods and liquids), sensory reinforcers (exposure to a controlled visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or kinesthetic experience), tangible reinforcers (certificates, stickers, etc.), privilege reinforcers (being first in line, holding the teacher’s book while she reads, etc.), activity reinforcers (play, special...
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