The Behavior Of Organisms, An Experimental Analysis Essay

970 WordsApr 27, 20164 Pages
In 1938, B.F. Skinner published The Behaviour of Organisms, An experimental analysis. The publication documented Skinner’s findings in several experiments he conducted with the aim of explaining how organisms learn behaviours and how this knowledge could be used to teach them new ones. Skinner was a behaviourist and was therefore interested in overt behaviours that could be observed and recorded. In his publication, he defines behaviour as follows, “Behaviour is what an organism is doing or more accurately what it is observed by another organism to be doing.” (Skinner, 1938). While classical conditioning is passive, operant conditioning requires the learner to actively “operate” on their environment. Therefore, operant conditioning mainly relies on the learner making voluntary responses, for example, pushing the buttons on a TV remote to select a desired channel. In Skinner’s experiment, the learner was a white rat who was placed in a small chamber where there is only a lever and tray upon which food pellets were dispensed. The experiment required the rat to stand on its hind legs and press down on the lever with a force of at least 10g in order for a food pellet to be dispensed. Of course, the rat’s first few presses of the lever would be purely accidental, but gradually the rat learned that if he wanted a pellet, pressing down on the lever would cause one to fall into the feeding tray. Skinner experimented further, adjusting the lever so that the rat would have to apply
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