Operant Conditioning by B. F Skinner

Topics: Reinforcement, Experimental analysis of behavior, B. F. Skinner Pages: 5 (1571 words) Published: December 3, 2008
People do on a day to day basis, many actions without realizing it, and most of the time, they don’t know why they do them. Certain reinforcements, some positive, and some negative have conditioned their actions and thoughts. In this essay, I chose Burrhus Frederic Skinner who came up with the theory of operant conditioning. B. F. skinner,(March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) is an American psychologist who believed that we do have such a thing as a mind, but that it is simply more productive to study observable behavior rather than internal mental events. As Skinner's theory was based on the earlier work of Thorndike, he also believed that the best way to understand a behavior is to look at the causes of the action and its consequences. He called this approach operant conditioning. Skinner's most well known and respected contribution to behaviorism and psychology in general was his findings to do with behavior and the effect of reinforcement on responses and the role of operant conditioning in learning. Main Assumption

The main assumption that Skinner’s theory is based on is that human behavior follows ‘laws’ and that the causes of human behavior is something in their environment. He came up with the four possible consequences (Appendix 1) which show how behavior can be reinforced to make it more or less frequent, or even extinct. It is basically learning from the consequences of our behavior which are: • Positive reinforcement

• Negative Reinforcement
• Punishment (Positive and Negative)
Skinner's theory of operant conditioning states that when a behavior is followed by a reinforcing agent that behavior is more likely to be repeated in the future under similar circumstances, when the behavior is followed by a negative reinforcement agent that behavior is less likely to be repeated in the future. “In the language of operant conditioning, reinforcement occurs when a consequence strengthens a response, or makes it more likely to reoccur.” ( Sigelman and Rider , 2006, P. 37) Case study: John, a 9 years old boy is often lazy to complete his homework and revise his studies, and had rather watch the drama serial on the television which is religiously followed by his mother during his study time in the afternoon. In the evening, he rushes out to play soccer with his neighbourhood mates. His mother is a housewife whilst his strict father is working during daytime. Let’s us apply the four consequences of our behavior to this case study and see the outcome: • Administer pleasant stimuli: John’s mother allow him to watch television as he wishes during his study time. This will actually increase his laziness in completing the homework. • Withdrawn pleasant stimuli: John’s mother will remove his privilege of playing soccer in the evening with his neighbourhood mates. This will motivate John to get his homework completed on time so he will be able to go out to play in the evening. • Administer unpleasant stimuli: John’s mother threatens to tell his father regarding his laziness. John will feel threatened as he is afraid of his strict father thus will complete his homework. • Withdrawn unpleasant stimuli: John’s mother will sacrifice watching her favourite drama serial during John’s study time. This will make John lazy to complete his homework every afternoon as he know his mother would have to miss her favourite drama serial because of his laziness. Recently, a humorous tagline has been attached to Singapore as a ‘Fine’ city. This basically refers to the laws of summon for actions like littering, jay-walking, spitting and even smoking in enclosed areas. This basically illustrates administering unpleasant stimuli to weaken our actions or behavior in a Singapore context. “Whereas reinforcement increase the strength of behavior that preceded it, punishment decreases the strength of, or weakens, that behavior.” ( Sigelman and Rider , 2006, P. 37)...
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