B.F. Skinner

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B.F. Skinner

Psychologist, born in Susquhanna, Pa. He studied at Harvard, teaching there (1931-6, 1947-74). A leading behaviorist, he is a proponent of operant conditioning, and the inventor of the Skinner box for facilitating experimental observations. B. F. Skinner's entire system is based on operant conditioning. The organism is in the process of "operating" on the environment, which in ordinary terms means it is bouncing around the world, doing what it does. During this "operating," the organism encounters a special kind of stimulus, called a reinforcing stimulus, or simply a reinforcer. This special stimulus has the effect of increasing the operant - which is the behavior occurring just before the reinforcer. This is operant conditioning: "the behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the organisms tendency to repeat the behavior in the future." Say you have a dog and he's just playing around with his toys and such and then when you throw a toy at him and he catches it then you give him a treat. Then all of the sudden the dog is starting to catch toys and such as you throw it in the air or at his mouth. The operant is the behavior just prior to the reinforcer, which is the treat. Then what if you decide to stop giving the dog treats, well he'll stop his little trick which your, the owner were enjoying. This is called extinction of the operant behavior. Now, if you were to start showing the dog treats, then most likely he/she'll want to start doing the tricks again and a little more quickly than the dog learned at first. This is because the return of the reinforcer takes place in the context of a reinforcement history that goes all the way back to the very first time the dog was reinforced for performing the tricks. Continuous reinforcement is the original scenario: Every time that the dog does the behavior (such as performing a trick), he gets a treat. The fixed ratio schedule was the first one Skinner...
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