Skinner Operant Conditioning Theory

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Operant conditioning is the reinforcement of a desired behaviour, learning can be achieved whereby a response will come to be controlled by association of a consequence. Operant conditioning is considered to be an extension of Edward Thorndike’s law of effect explained as a person changing their behaviour to replicate positive consequences and avoid negative consequences. B. F. Skinner, professor of Psychology at Harvard University, expanded on Thorndike’s theory (O'Donohue & Ferguson, 2001). This essay will analyse Skinner’s development of the theory of operant conditioning. Skinner’s theory and the studies he devised will be discussed and how they support operant conditioning.

Skinner’s studies were created to support his theory of operant conditioning. Skinner devised experiments that were based in a laboratory involved a box commonly called a Skinner Box. The aim of Skinner was to prove that operant conditioning was a more detailed theory than classical conditioning; by placing animals inside the box to be observed. In his experiments he used positive punishment that is adding an undesirable consequence for example electric shocks and positive primary reinforcement in this case it was food. Skinner using shaping explained as, instead of rewarding only when the subject exhibit a desired behaviour any behaviour is rewarded as long as it leads to the target behaviour. The continued reinforcement either positive or negative explained as the delivery of a consequence that

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