Skinner's Theories of Behaviorism

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Behaviorism is by far one of the most interesting fields of psychology in my opinion. B.F. Skinner’s view on behaviorism was that a person’s actions are controlled by rewards and punishments. Relating this to a real life situation, a great example of this would be a parent and a child.

Behavioral analysis is how a person’s behaviours are based on the individuals’ personal history and past experiences. This is different then radical behaviorism, which Skinner fell into. Skinner believed that mental events, such as thinking, were not needed to explain behavior.

A parent raising a child deals with a lot of operant conditioning if they know it or not. A parent is always trying to teach a child right and wrong. From operant conditioning they can teach the child how to use reinforcement and punishment.

Positive reinforcement is any stimulus that, when added to a situation increases the probability that a given behavior will occur. If a child is doing well at school and brings home a report card that is all A’s the parent may reward the child. The reward must be something the child will find desirable. If the parent gives the child a snickers bar and the child is allergic to peanuts this will obviously not be a reward for the child. The positive reinforcer is often called the operant reinforcer, which is any event that follows a response and increases its probability of occurring again.

Negative reinforcement is any aversive stimulus that, when removed from the situation, increases the probability that immediately proceeding behavior will occur. Although the word negative is thrown in, this type of reinforcement will still increase the probability of the behavior occurring. For instance, if the parent always watches the news a...

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...hores all day and every two hours the parent gives the child lemonade and cookies. Variable-intervals are a variation of fixed intervals. The reinforcement is given for the first correct response made after a varied amount of time. An example of this is if the child has a job that pays under the table. Since it is not an official contracted job the pay may be whenever the boss gets money so there is no consistency to the reward and the amount of time may vary based on how much work is needed.

Reinforcements and punishments are used in everyday situations from raising kids or to training a dog. Intermittent Schedules also seen just about everywhere from how you collect your paycheck to how a casino works. Skinner’s theories of behaviorism are very easy to show from real life situations but are a little trickier to understand when only using psychology terminology.
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