Skinners Operant Conditioning Theory

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Skinners Operant Conditioning Theory

B.F Skinner (1904-1990), an American psychologist who was the leading

exponent of the school of psychology know as behaviourism, maintained

the idea that learning is a result of any change in overt behaviour.

Changes in behaviour are determined by the way an individual responds

to events (stimuli) in the environment. Skinner described this

phenomenon as operant conditioning. Action on part of the learner is

called a response. When a desired stimulus-response pattern is

reinforced (rewarded), the individual is conditioned to respond in a

certain way, and learning takes place. Reinforcement is a vital

element in Skinner's Stimulus-Response Theory. A reinforcer is

anything that strengthens a desired response, such as verbal praise,

or a good grade. Skinner's theory also covers negative reinforcers,

and punishment that lead to the reduction of undesired responses.

Further, attention is given to schedules of reinforcement used to

establish and maintain behaviour. This topic will explore the

application of Operant Conditioning where learning is controlled

through reinforcement of certain stimulus and response patterns.

Learning through Operant Conditioning

To understand Operant Conditioning we must look at the laws that

control the relationship between two variables: independent variables

and dependent variables. When an experiment is conducted, the

independent variable(s) are manipulated by the experimenter, and

dependant variables are measured from the subjects. Skinners system

described the independent variables as the type of reinforcement, and

schedules of reinforcement, and the dependent va...

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...ses of the organisms to external

stimuli. Learning takes place as a result of the organism responding

on its environment. Skinner described this phenomenon as - operant

conditioning. Operant conditioning looks at the different affects

types of reinforcement (positive and negative), and schedules of

reinforcement (Ratio and Interval, Fixed, and Variable) have on an

individual or animals behaviour regarding acquisition, rate of

responding, and extinction rate. Events that increase the likelihood

of a response are termed reinforcers. Reinforcers can be either

positive, or negative, and can be highly effective for modifying

behaviour. The removal of an unpleasant stimulus, or presentation of

an unpleasant stimulus following behaviour involves punishment.

Punishment does not increase the probability of a response occurring.

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