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Behaviorism B. F. Skinner.

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Presentation on theme: "Behaviorism B. F. Skinner."— Presentation transcript:

1 Behaviorism B. F. Skinner

2 B.F. Skinner ( )

3 B. F. Skinner ( ) Skinner’s life Predetermined, lawful, and orderly A product of past reinforcements 1925: Hamilton College (NY): degree in English, no courses in psychology Read about Pavlov’s and Watson’s experimental work 1931: Ph.D. from Harvard

4 B. F. Skinner Dissertation: a reflex is a correlation between S and R 1938: The Behavior of Organisms 1953: Science and Human Behavior 1990: Vigorously attacked the growth of cognitive psychology 1990 (final article): "Can Psychology Be a Science of Mind?"

5 B. F. Skinner Dealt only with observable behavior The task of scientific inquiry: To establish functional relationships between experimenter-controlled stimulus and organism’s response No presumptions about internal entities - The "empty organism" approach

6 B. F. Skinner Single subject design Large numbers of subjects not necessary Statistical comparisons of group means not necessary A single subject provides valid and replicable results Requires "sufficient" data collected under well- controlled experimental conditions Statistics obscure individual responses and differences

7 B. F. Skinner - Operant conditioning
Watson, Pavlov - Respondent behavior: elicited by specific observable stimulus

8 B. F. Skinner Operant behavior: occurs without an observable external stimulus Operates on the organism’s environment The behavior is instrumental in securing a stimulus more representative of everyday learning

9 B. F. Skinner Science of behavior: Study of conditioning and extinction of operants Dependent variable in the "Skinner box": rate of response Law of acquisition key variable: reinforcement practice provides opportunities for additional reinforcement Differs from Thorndike and Hull’s positions Thorndike and Hull: explanatory Skinner: strictly descriptive


11 Skinner’s Theory “All we need to know in order to describe and explain behavior is this: actions followed by good outcomes are likely to recur , and actions followed by bad outcomes are less likely to recur.” (Skinner, 1953)

12 Central Human Motive in Skinner’s Theory
Environmental consequences shape behavior

13 LAW OF EFFECT Behavior Better state Increased
of affairs probability of behavior occurring again Behavior Worse state Decreased of affairs probability of behavior occurring again Behavior A Behavior B Behavior C Better state Behavior C Behavior D of affairs emerges as the Behavior E most probable

14 Laboratory Examples Operant Conditioning Exploring Scratching
Key-pecking Grooming Defecating Urinating Pigeon Reinforcement (in a Skinner box) (food pellet)


POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT = increasing a behavior by administering a reward NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT = increasing a behavior by removing an aversive stimulus when a behavior occurs PUNISHMENT = decreasing a behavior by administering an aversive stimulus following a behavior OR by removing a positive stimulus EXTINCTION = decreasing a behavior by not rewarding it

17 B. F. Skinner Research foci Role of punishment in response acquisition Schedules of reinforcement Extinction of operants Secondary reinforcement Generalization Subjects included humans as well as animals

18 B. F. Skinner Schedules of reinforcement Reinforcement is necessary in operant behavior Reinforcement schedules continuous fixed and variable ratio and interval

Interval schedules: reinforcement occurs after a certain amount of time has passed Fixed Interval = reinforcement is presented after a fixed amount of time Variable Interval = reinforcement is delivered on a random/variable time schedule Ratio schedules: reinforcement occurs after a certain number of responses Fixed Ratio = reinforcement presented after a fixed # of responses Variable Ratio = reinforcement delivery is variable but based on an overall average # of responses

Punishment does not teach appropriate behaviors Must be delivered immediately & consistently May result in negative side effects Undesirable behaviors may be learned through modeling (aggression) May create negative emotions (anxiety & fear)

Successive approximation/shaping = reinforcing behaviors as they come to approximate the desired behavior Superstitious Behavior = when persistent behaviors are reinforced coincidentally rather than functionally Self-control of behavior Stimulus avoidance Self-administered satiation Aversive stimulation Self-reinforcement



24 B. F. Skinner Verbal behavior Speech Comprised of responses Can be reinforced by speech sounds or gestures

25 B. F. Skinner Aircribs and teaching machines 1945: aircrib Teaching machine invented in the 1920s by Pressey promoted by Skinner 1968: The Technology of Teaching



28 B. F. Skinner Walden Two (1948): A behavioristic society Program of behavioral control A technology of behavior Application of laboratory findings to society at large

29 B. F. Skinner Behavior modification Used in a variety of applied settings Reinforce desired behavior and extinguish undesired behavior Punishment is not used

30 B. F. Skinner Criticisms of Skinner’s behaviorism His extreme positivism His opposition to theory His willingness to extrapolate beyond the data The narrow range of behavior studied Problem of instinctive drift His position on verbal behavior

31 B. F. Skinner Contributions of Skinner’s behaviorism Shaped American psychology for 30 years His goal: the improvement of society Srength and ramifications of his radical behaviorism

32 Social Learning Theories: The Cognitive Challenge
The context Skinner (1963): "Behaviorism at Fifty" Progress in experimental psychology in U.S. due to behaviorism Social learning/sociobehaviorist approach fomented by many, including some behaviorists, reflected broader cognitive revolution in psychology 1995: consciousness has overtly and publicly returned to psychology



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