OPERANT CONDITIONING, A THEORY DEVELOPED BY B.F. SKINNER
Dating back to the 1800’s, many theories have developed in reference to Child Development. There have been theories that have become classics and those that continue to cause controversy. Doing research on these theories one of them really stood out to me and that is the one of B.F. Skinner. Skinner believed that the best way to understand behavior is to look at the causes of an action and its consequences. He called this approach operant conditioning. The main principles of operant conditioning, as defined by Skinner, are reinforcement, punishment, shaping, extinction, discrimination, and generalization. Reinforcement is the key element in Skinner's theory. A reinforcement is any characteristic in the environment that serves to increase the probability that a person will repeat a behavior in the future. It could be verbal praise, a good grade or a feeling of increased accomplishment or satisfaction (Cook). An example of a positive reinforcement is a child receives their report card and brings it home to mom and dad. The child received four “A’s” and one “B”. For every “A” received the parents reinforce that child with money. In middle school “A’s” are worth twenty dollars each but moving into high school they are worth fifty dollars each. This child will be highly motivated to bring home as many “A’s” as they can! What happens when that reinforcer does not work? That is when the next element in Skinner’s theory comes into play, and that is punishment. Punishment is defined as the opposite of reinforcement since it is designed to weaken or eliminate a response rather than increase it. Like reinforcement, punishment can work either by directly applying an unpleasant stimulus like a shock after a response or by removing a potentially rewarding stimulus (McLeod). For instance, let’s say that child who brought home “A’s” is now driving. They broke curfew because they were out late with their friends....
Cited: Bauer, Amy, and Christine Maracich. "Conditioning and Learning." Niu.edu. N.P., 2003. Web. 03 Oct. 2014.
Cook, Joan Littlefield., and Greg Cook. "Chapter 1." Child Development: Principles and Perspectives. Boston: Pearson A & B, 2009. 12+. Print.
McLeod, S. A. "B.F. Skinner | Operant Conditioning | Simply Psychology." SimplyPsychology.org. N.P., 2007. Web. 02 Oct. 2014.
Schacter, Daniel L., Daniel Todd. Gilbert, and Daniel M. Wegner. Psychology. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Worth, 2011. Print
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