Albert Bandura and B.F. Skinner
Two prominent researchers, B.F. Skinner and Albert Bandura, have developed theories which provide differing perspectives and explanations regarding the learning behavior of individuals. The purpose of this writing is to explore the theoretical perspectives of Operant Conditioning Theory developed by B.F. Skinner and Social Learning Theory developed by Albert Bandura. An overview of both theories is presented, followed by a discussion of their similarities and differences.
B.F. Skinner: Operant Conditioning Theory
B.F. Skinner’s theory of Operant Conditioning has at its foundation a desire to demonstrate a “cause and effect” relationship between behavior and reinforcement and focuses on predicting and controlling behavior in observable ways (Skinner, 1953, p. 23). Unlike many of his predecessors, which delved within the personality of the individual to explain behavior, Skinner believed that behavior was actually external to the individual, being shaped by stimuli and reinforcements. He argued that it would be illogical to consider personality traits or inner motives as explanations for behavior, because inner causes can involve circular reasoning. (Cloninger, 2008, p. 288). Instead of attempting to examine internal states that cannot be directly observed and measured, Skinner sought to utilize the scientific method, examining observable behavior through analyzing empirical evidence, based on direct observations: “The practice of looking inside the organism for an explanation of behavior has tended to obscure the variables which are immediately available for a scientific analysis. These variables lie outside the organism, in its immediate environment and in its environmental history. They have a physical status to which the usual techniques of science are adapted, and they make it possible to explain behavior as other subjects are
References: Bandura, Albert. (1965). Vicarious processes: A case of no-trial learning. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 1-55). New York: Academic Press. Cloninger, Susan C. (2007). Theories of Personality: Understanding Persons (5th Edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Skinner, Burrhus F. (1953). Science and Human Behavior. New York, New York: Macmillan Company.