Skinner B.F. ''Two Types of Conditioned Reflex and a Pseudo Type''

Topics: Operant conditioning, Extinction, Reward system Pages: 9 (3477 words) Published: February 16, 2009
TWO TYPES OF CONDITIONED REFLEX : A REPLY TO KONORSKI AND MILLER B.F. Skinner (1937)
First published in Journal of General Psychology, 16, 272-279.

Before considering the specific objections raised by Konorski and Miller(4) against my formulation of a second type of conditioned reflex, I should like to give a more fundamental characterization of both types and of the discriminations based upon them. Let conditioning be defined as a kind of change in reflex strength where the operation performed upon the organism to induce the change is the presentation of a reinforcing stimulus in a certain temporal relation to behavior. All changes in strength so induced come under the head of conditioning and are thus distinguished from changes having similar dimensions but induced in other ways (as in drive, emotion, and so on). Different types of conditioned reflexes arise because a reinforcing stimulus may be presented in different kinds of temporal relations. There are two fundamental cases: in one the reinforcing stimulus is correlated temporally with a response and in the other with a stimulus. For "correlated with" we might write "contingent upon". There are the types that I have numbered I and II respectively. Konorski and Miller refer to the second as Type I and to a complex case involving the first (see below) as Type II. To avoid confusion and to gain a mnemonic advantage I shall refer to conditioning which results from the contingency of a reinforcing stimulus upon a stimulus [p.273] as a Type S and to that resulting from contingency upon a response as of Type R. If the stimulus is already correlated with a response or the response with a stimulus, a reinforcement cannot be made contingent upon the one term without being put into a similar relation with the other. That is to say, if a reinforcing stimulus is correlated temporally with the S in a reflex, it is also correlated with the R, or if with the R, then also with the S. It is not possible to avoid this difficulty (which seems to destroy the validity of the foregoing definition) by specifying a kind of temporal relation. If, for example, we should distinguish between the cases in which the reinforcing stimulus precedes S (and hence also precedes R) and those in which it follows R (and hence also follows S), the resulting classes would be close to those of Types R and S but they would not be identical with them, and the basis for the definition would not permit a deduction of the other characteristics of the types. The contingency of the reinforcing stimulus upon a separate term is necessary. It may be noted, therefore, that in both paradigms of conditioning as previously given (2) the connection between the term to be correlated with the reinforcing stimulus and another term is irrelevant. No connection need exist at the start. In Type S we may use a stimulus ( So ) eliciting no observable response and in Type R a response ( Ro ) elicited by no observable stimulus (for example, the "spontaneous" flexion of a leg). Or, if a connection originally exists, it may disappear during conditioning. In Type S, if So elicits a definite response [ say, where ( So - Ro ) is (shock - flexion) ], Ro may disappear (Eroféeva); and in Type R, if Ro is apparently elicited by a definite stimulus [say, where ( So - Ro ) is the same], Ro will eventually appear without So, as Konorski and Miller have shown. The paradigms may therefore be rewritten as follows: where the arrows indicate the temporal correlation responsible for conditioning,[1] and where the terms written in lower case either (a) cannot be identified, (b) may be omitted, or (c) may disappear. The correlation of the reinforcing stimulus with a separate term is here achieved and from [p.274] it the properties of two (and, incidentally, only two) types of conditioned reflex may be deduced. The differences between the types given in my paper (2), which need not be repeated here, are no longer useful...

References: (1) Hudgins, C. V. Conditioning and the voluntary control of the pupillary reflex. J. Gen. Psychol., 1933, 8, 3-51.
(2) Skinner, B. F. Two types of conditioned reflex and a pseudo type. J. Gen. Psychol., 1935, 12, 66-77.
(3) ----------. The rate of establishment of a discrimination. J. Gen. Psychol., 1933, 9, 302-350.
(4) Konorski, J. A., & Miller, S. M. On two types of conditioned reflex. J. Gen. Psychol., 1937, 16, 264-272.
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