Autor: neo_80 24 April 2010
Words: 1074 | Pages: 5
Burrhus Frederic Skinner
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born March 20th, 1904 in small town named Susquehanna located in central Pennsylvania. Son of a lawyer and educated housewife, Skinner was always encouraged to do well in school. He rather enjoyed his studies and eventually attended Hamilton College in upstate New York. Burrhus Skinner chose not to attend school football games or parties. He found solace in writing for the school paper and faculty until he graduated with a BA English. Skinner used his degree to seek out employment for a newspaper in which he wrote columns on labor issues. Unsatisfied with his occupation, Skinner decided to go back to college in 1925, this time the school would be Harvard. After 5 years of studies, Burrhus achieved his masters in psychology; a year later he received his doctorate. Skinner stayed for 5 more years after receiving his doctorate to do research until he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where he taught Psychology. In 1945 B. F. Skinner assumed position of Chairman of Psychology at Indiana University until 1948 when we was invited to Harvard where he remained until his death. August 18, 1990, B. F. Skinner died of leukemia after becoming perhaps the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud.
Thought Skinner may have been a great teacher of Psychology, he will always be best remembered for his work with operant conditioning and radical behaviorism. Nearly all of Skinners studies were based on operant conditioning. Operant Conditioning was the theory that all actions occur based on the external reaction or stimulus. That reaction either reinforces or punishes the behavior which in turn results in an increase or decrease in the behavior. In the words of Skinner this can be explained as: â€œthe behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the organismâ€™s tendency to repeat the behavior in the future.â€ Burrhus Skinnerâ€™s first experiments testing this theory came when he invented the â€œSkinner Boxâ€. The Skinner box was a special cage that had a switch on one wall that released food pellets when triggered. When a rat was introduced to the cage it would explore its new surrounding and eventually discovered the lever that controls the food. One the button and pressed and the food is released the rat then begins to associate the food with the pressing of the button which reinforces the behavior. As long as the food pellets continued to be released the rat would persist with the behavior. Skinner then tested the ratsâ€™ response once the food source had been eliminated. The rat continued pressing the button for a short time but soon learned that it no longer would be rewarded with food for the action and eventually the behavior ceases all together. This is what Skinner referred to as Extinction. Extinction occurs when the reinforcer is taken away from the behavior. The rat no longer receives any reward and the action itself provides no pleasure so it becomes extinct. Intrigued by his findings, Skinner decided to test how they rats would react to different ratios of food and thus lead to findings of schedule reinforcement.
Scheduled reinforcement tests the outcome of rationing the amount of reinforcement the operant received. In the case of the rats, Skinner found that when the rat still would use the lever, even if the reinforcement wasnâ€™t always consistent. The behavior remained the same for a rationed reinforcer as it did for the continuous reinforcer (reward every time). Skinner then made variations of the rationed method. At first, Skinner tested what would happen when the rats received a food only on the third time. The rats continued the behavior even when the reinforcer had been raised from one reward every twenty times. Skinner named this schedule fixed ratio.
Fixed interval, the other consistent form of scheduling, rations the reinforcer by time rather than the number of times a behavior is performed. There is also the form that is known as variable schedule. This means that you change the factor of â€œxâ€ every time, making the reinforcement not as consistent. In the case of the rats, they can no longer â€œpaceâ€ themselves because both intervals have changed and they can no longer establish what the time will be between behavior and reward. Both of these schedules are resistant to extinction. According to Skinner, this is a method of gambling. You may not win very often but you never know when you win again. It could be the very next time, and if you donâ€™t take that bet then you could lose your chance at the possible reward.
Negative reinforcement is the taking away of something subjectively bad to increase a behavior. For example, if you turn off the electricity when the rat stands in its hind legs, then it is more likely to stand knowing the there is no punishment or aversive stimulus involved. However, some forms of positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement are hard to distinguish between each other.
Behavior modification (known as b-mod) is a therapy technique that refers to Skinnerâ€™s work and is actually very simple. Take away the unwanted behavior by taking away the reward and replace it with a wanted behavior by reinforcement. This technique of his is often used to treat psychological problems and works well especially with children.
Operant Conditioning is a very creditable theory of behaviorism. It allows us to take Skinners studies and contrast them to our own life. Much of the time it is surprising how effective they are. They can be applied to day to day life to help address minor problems we may have with peopleâ€™s behavior we must interact with. Operant conditioning can be used to help train our pets, better discipline and reward our children not to mention add stability to any relationship. With extensive studies done by many psychologist and Skinner himself, Operant conditioning is backed by several thousand hours of investigation, lab studies and plenty of creditable names in the Psychology World. It has been employed by many institutions such as military and prison system with high success rate in increasing in desirable behavior. Perhaps eventually we will be able to effectively incorporate the conditioning method to increase learning in educational environments.