Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior due to experience. There are two types of learning, associative learning and cognitive learning. Associative learning occurs when a person or an animal forms a simple association among various stimuli, behaviors, or both. It requires little to no awareness or thought. Cognitive learning refers to understanding, knowing, and anticipating. Our subject today comes from associative learning. There are two types of associative learning. Ivan Pavlov of Russia, discovered classical conditioning, and Edward Thorndike discovered operant conditioning.
Burrhus Frederic (B. F.) Skinner, an American behavioral psychologist who believed the idea that human free will was an illusion and any human action was the result of the consequences of that same action, developed an experiment to verify if superstition was present in pigeons. Skinner’s beliefs led him to conduct this research experiment which ultimately declared him as one of the top psychologists of his era. Skinner believed that the best way to understand behavior was to look at the causes of an action and its consequences. He called this approach operant conditioning.
Skinner’s reinforcement experiments conducted on rats showed the principles of operant conditioning. While working with rats, Skinner would place them in a Skinner box with a lever attached to a feeding tube. After multiple trials, rats learned the connection between the lever and food, and started to spend more time in the box procuring food than performing any other action. He used positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement to produce or inhibit specific target behaviors. Therefore, if a specific behavior is reinforced then the probability of that behavior occurring again is increased. Based on Skinner’s view, this theory can be applied to learning because learning is nothing more than a change in behavior. Operant conditioning encourages positive reinforcement, which can be applied in the classroom environment to get the good behavior you want and need from students. One of the ways of reinforcing a student’s behavior is through praise. Also teachers can build operant conditioning techniques into their lesson plans to teach children possible skills as well as good behaviors. For example: to give a smiley face, or motivational stamps to encourage children to perform correctly and encourage them to repeat such action again.
Operant conditioning refers to the method of learning to occur through rewards and punishment for behavior (Staddon & Cerutti 2002). In the operant condition, an association occurs between the behavior and the consequences of the behavior. Behaviorist B.F Skinner coined operant conditioning, and that is why some refer to it as Skinnerian conditioning. Skinner started studying operant conditioning in the late 1920s when he was a graduate student at Harvard University. As a behaviorist B.F Skinner believes that it was obligatory to look at the internal thoughts and motivation so as to explain behavior (Staddon & Cerutti 2002). As an alternative, he did suggest that we should look only at the external and observable causes of human behavior. The characteristics of operant conditioning are that an organism may emit a particular response instead of just eliciting the response because of the external stimulus. Skinner did use the term operant in referring to any active behavior that operates on the environment so as to generate consequences (Doyle-Portillo & Pastorino 2013).
Skinner was an American psychologist who mostly worked with pigeons and rats to discover some of the key principles of learning new behaviour. Skinner used a very famous device which is called a skinner box. The box contains a lever which when pressed released a food pallet into the box so reinforcing lever presser behaviour. When the rat is placed into the box it will run around, sniff the different items and will then press the lever which will release a food pallet. After a bit when the rat has performed the action repeatedly, it will learn that this behaviour (pressing the lever) is automatically followed by the food pallet being released. There are two types of reinforcement and they are negative and positive reinforcement.
Additionally, many practical applications of the theory were developed from animal training to human education and in many cases such applications have been shown to be efficient in producing behavioral change (Hill, 2001).
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an upcoming behaviorist in the 1920’s. Skinner and many other behaviorists at the time were revolutionizing the field of psychology by deviating away from common practices and methods. Skinner was the most influential behaviorist during this time period as he contributed the greatest by developing a new way of studying behavior, which came to be known as operant conditioning. Before the development of operant conditioning psychologists mainly focused on classical conditioning; a much simpler method for explaining the process of behavior.
While Skinner was at Harvard, he invented what he called an operant conditioning apparatus, known as the Skinner Box. By using this device, Skinner could study an animal interacting with its environment. He started off by studying rodents in the experiments, examining how the rats discovered and used a lever in the box that dispensed food at different times. Skinner then started experimenting with pigeons, using the box. The pigeons pecked at a disc to gain access to food. By conducting these tests Skinner came to the decision that some form of reinforcement was crucial in learning new behaviors. While researching at Harvard, Skinner pronounced the results of his operant conditioning experiments in the Behavior of Organisms (1938).
B. F. Skinner believed that a human being’s behavior is influenced and determined by external factors. He believed that free will and an individual’s freedom of choice was non-existent. I believe that Mr. Skinners ideas of operant conditioning for society is not a good idea.
Just as Freud is known as the father of Psychoanalysis, B.F. Skinner is often referred to ask the “the father of operant conditioning.” B.F. Skinner is also known for major contributions to the field of psychology (About B.F. Skinner, Sept, 2012). Skinner was a prolific author, publishing nearly 200 articles and more than 20 books. Skinner was most known for his work in behavior psychology. Behavioral psychology is the psychological practice that focuses on learning new behaviors and how to modify our existing behavior and how that takes place (About B.F. Skinner, Sept, 2012). One of his major contributions was his theory of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning means roughly, the changing of behavior by the use of reinforcement, either positive or negative, and which these reinforcements are given after the desired response (About B.F. Skinner, Sept, 2012). Skinner identified three types of responses or operant that can follow behavior.
Illegal drug use may be explained by a Skinnerian behaviorist as a maladaptive response that is significantly reinforced more than adaptive responses. For example, a Skinnerian behaviorist might say, a person who uses illegal drugs is constantly pressured by their peers to use illegal drugs and is not enough in contact with those who would reinforce non-drug use. As a result, illegal drug use becomes more reinforced than not.
Operant conditioning is considered the second learning principle. This type of learning occurs due to the cause-and-effect relationship between a behavior and its consequences. Operant conditioning has a common sense element. When we reward a behavior, it increases. When we punish a behavior, it decreases (Horvath et.al. 2013). Individuals who dislike particular substances have little risk for developing an addiction to those substances. Such dislikes to certain drugs or substances are not uncommon. Some people do not enjoy certain substances so therefore this protects them from developing an addiction simply because those substances are not enjoyable so therefore they are not rewarding (Horvath et. al. 2013), because addiction is considered
According to Gewirtz and Peláez-Nogueras (1992), “B. F. Skinner contributed a great deal to advancing an understanding of basic psychological processes and to the applications of science-based interventions to problems of individual and social importance.” He contributed to “human and nonhuman behavior, including human behavioral development, and to various segments of the life span, including human infancy” (p. 1411). One of Skinner's greatest scientific discoveries was “single reinforcement” which became sufficient for “operant conditioning, the role of extinction in the discovery of intermittent schedules, the development of the method of shaping by successive approximation, and Skinner's break with and rejection of stimulus-response
Behaviorism is by far one of the most interesting fields of psychology in my opinion. B.F. Skinner’s view on behaviorism was that a person’s actions are controlled by rewards and punishments. Relating this to a real life situation, a great example of this would be a parent and a child.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born on March 20, 1904 in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. Skinner was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and a social philosopher. Skinner is known for his discovery of the theory of operant conditioning (Wikipedia). Skinner was a graduate from Harvard University. Although he understood the importance of classical conditioning, he noted that, “principles of classical conditioning account for only a small portion of learned behaviors” (Woolfolk 250). Skinner expressed that through operant conditioning, behavior is strengthened or weakened by antecedents or consequences. Both theorists’ work have a major influence on learning/behavioral concepts.