Skinner and Harlow Compare and Contrast

Topics: Reinforcement, Operant conditioning, B. F. Skinner Pages: 4 (1311 words) Published: October 15, 2012
This essay will look at the work of two very famous behaviourists. It will consider the differences and similarities as well as give descriptive detail of their actual experiments and see if any contribution was provided to mankind. It will focus on the theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning which occurs through interaction with the environment. As this was done by experimenting with animals, it is also necessary to consider the rules and restrictions that are needed to be kept in mind as research ethics applies to any experiments done on any living thing. (Word count 102)

One of the few famous behaviourists was B.F. Skinner. He believed that with the right tools we can predict and control any behaviour and that the best way to understand behaviour is to look at the causes of an action and its consequences. He called this approach operant conditioning. A new term was born – reinforcement, which meant that behavior which is reinforced tends to be repeated (i.e. strengthened) Skinner, B. F. (1948). In 1948, Skinner conducted experiments on rats and pigeons by putting them in a ‘Skinner box’. B.F. Skinner (1938) came up with a term operant conditioning. It means that particular behaviour is changed by the use of reinforcement which is given after the desired response. In this case, it was a small pellet of food which dropped into a food tray and could be eaten. Skinner showed how positive reinforcement worked by placing a hungry rat in his box. On one of the inside walls there was a small lever which could have been accidentally moved by the randomly moving rat. As soon as the rat did so, a food pellet would drop into a container next to the lever. It only took a little while for rats to learn to go straight to the lever. So, in this case, the consequences of receiving food if they pressed the lever ensured that they would repeat the action again and again ( B.F. Skinner, 1948) . (Word count 342)...
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