Burrhus Frederic (B.F.) Skinner By greg jones

Who is B.F. Skinner???

Born in Pennsylvania on March 20, 1904

He was a psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher

Earned a doctorate from Harvard

Began working on ideas of human behavior

Wrote The Behavior of Organisms (1938)

Walden Two (1948) a novel based on his theories

Beyond Freedom and Human Dignity (1971) which explored behaviorism in relation to society

Awarded a lifetime achievement award by the American Psychological Association

Died August 18, 1990 in Massachusetts

Operant Conditioning

Operant Conditioning deals with operants - intentional actions that have an effect on the surrounding environment. Skinner Believed that we both predict and control behavior.

By manipulating the environment... You can manipulate behavior.

Skinner defines a learning process in which the consequences which follow a response determine whether the behavior will be repeated.

Behavior will likely be repeated which has been reinforced, and tend to not be repeated with punishment.

Skinner (1948) studied operant conditioning by conducting experiments using animals which he placed in a 'Skinner Box'

Skinner Box - Positive Reinforcement

* At first behavior was random, but an inadvertently tripped lever was rewarded with a food pellet.

* The rat take long to learn that a lever represented a means of obtaining the reinforcer.

* The consequence of receiving food (a desirable stimulus) for lever pressing ensured that it would repeat the action.

* Skinner initially used a continuous reinforcement schedule

Skinner Box- Negative Reinforcement

* Rat was subjected to unpleasant electric current and the lever switched off the current.

* The consequence of escaping the current (an adverse stimulus) ensured that it would repeat the action. A light would be switched on, just prior to current.

* This lever pressing after the light was negatively reinforced.

Pigeons playing ping pong
The Air Bed

First, the "air crib" was just one of the ways that he publicly advocated for a more scientific approach to life.

Educational Applications

In the conventional learning situation operant conditioning applies largely to issues of class and student management, rather than to learning content. It is very relevant to shaping skill performance.

A simple way to shape behavior is to provide feedback on learner performance, e.g. compliments, approval, encouragement, and affirmation.

For example, if a teacher wanted to encourage students to answer questions in class they should praise them for every attempt (regardless of whether their answer is correct). Gradually the teacher will only praise the students when their answer is correct, and over time only exceptional answers will be praised.

Unwanted behaviors, such as tardiness and dominating class discussion can be extinguished through being ignored by the teacher (rather than being reinforced by having attention drawn to them).

Knowledge of success is also important as it motivates future learning. However it is important to vary the type of reinforcement given, so that the behavior is maintained.

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