“the Consequences of Behavior Determine the Probability That the Behavior Will Occur Again”

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“The consequences of behavior determine the probability that the behavior will occur again” --B. F. Skinner

B. F. Skinner is remembered as one of the most radical behaviorist psychologists in America. He developed the theory of operant conditioning, a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. An example of operant response is when your cell phone rings, you automatically pick it up. Operant conditioning is training yourself not to answer it while at school. In some cases, a behavior might be reinforced each time it occurs or it might not be reinforced at all. However, the objective of reinforcement is always to strengthen behavior, amplifying the likelihood that it will occur again in the future. For situations where you are deliberately trying to train and reinforce an action, such as in the example of the phone in the classroom, a specific reinforcement schedule might be chosen.

On the other hand, punishment is the outcome that causes a decrease in the behavior it follows. Positive punishment involves the presentation of an unfavorable outcome in order to weaken the response it follows. Negative punishment occurs when a favorable outcome is removed after a behavior occurs. In both cases of punishment, the behavior decreases.

Skinner invented a small soundproof chamber where an animal could be free from all outside distractions, called the Skinner box. He also demonstrated that you can create superstitious behavior through his study of animals. Skinner placed an animal in a Skinner box containing a device that automatically dispensed food every five minutes. This continued to transpire whenever the animal picked up its right foot and food was delivered—the animal continued to repeat the behavior, reinforcing the superstitious behavior. Skinner's theory explains how we develop the range of learned behaviors we exhibit daily.
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