In order to understand Skinner’s theory, one must first understand the theory of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning, most notably theorized by Watson, Pavlov, and Thorndike, is the theory of learning that goes as follows: any response can be elicited from any stimulus if that stimulus is paired with a stimulus that, when unconditioned, elicits that response. Pavlov’s dogs are an excellent example. Dogs naturally salivate when stimulated with meat powder. However, dogs can be made to salivate to the sound of a bell ringing if that bell ringing is accompanied by meat powder. After several repetitions, the meat powder is no longer needed and the dogs will salivate solely to the sound of the bell ringing. This theory of classical conditioning is an underpinning to Skinner’s work.
Skinner’s expansion of behaviorism begins a theory of an organism. According to Skinner, the organism is in the process of “operating” on the environment and its stimuli. If a certain operation increases pleasurable stimuli or decreases painful stimuli, then that operation is continued (those stimuli are known as reinforcing stimuli). That operation, c...
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...adolescents. In his book, A New Definition of Punishment, he argues that “instead of spanking children parents should reward children’s good behavior” (Hall, 2013).
This is an excellent tie-in to Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning. All stimuli, be they positive or negative, reinforcement or punishment, have the same goal: to change or modify behavior. As these studies and experts have shown, however, spanking as a form of positive punishment is not very effective, and when it is effective, the changes in behavior produced by the spanking are not long-term changes. Hall suggests a form of positive reinforcement as more effective than spanking. Children in the Vittrup-Holden study seem to favor this as well, opting for a “reasoning with” punishment as opposed to a spanking. This clearly demonstrates that spanking is not an effective form of operant conditioning.
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