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B.F. Skinner Essay

1148 words - 5 pages

I decided to write my essay on B.F. Skinner, whose full first name is Burrhus Frederic. Skinner was born on March 20, 1904 and past away on August 18, 1990. He is considered an influential psychologist, who is known as an advocate to behaviorism. Skinner became interested in the field of psychology through the work of Ivan Pavlov on conditioned response, articles on behaviorism by Bertrand Russell, and ideas of John B. Watson, the founder of behaviorism (“World of Biology,” 2006). Skinner believed that people tend to work harder and learn quicker when they are rewarded for doing something right than when they are punished for doing wrong. In other words, he felt that humans learn behaviors ...view middle of the document...

He was able to prove this by the bar press-to-food contingency, which led to an increase in bar pressing. This outcome was known as positive reinforcement, informally as reward training (Terry, 90). When this reinforcement was not given, there would be a decrease in the frequency of the responses. Skinner labeled this outcome extinction. This contribution is important to psychology today because it has been beneficial for people such as teachers, parents, psychologists, and many others. For instance, a parent can utilize operant conditioning by rewarding their children for good behavior, and punishing them for bad behavior in order to shape the behavior that is desired. The parent can give their children points for when they are showing good behavior, and then give them a reward by the end of the week such as ice cream or candy. In addition, his invention of the Skinner box has also been adopted in pharmaceutical research for observing how drugs may modify animal behavior (“World of Biology,” 2006).

Skinner also created a method of response, which he called shaping. This method was developed to help train a behavior that is not presently in an organism’s repertoire. Skinner’s idea to shape a particular target behavior was to reinforce a response that is performed and that approximates the desired behavior (Terry, 109). Once this response occurred at a high frequency, he then decided that only certain deviations should be reinforced that is in the direction of the target behavior. An example could be training your dog how to fetch a Frisbee. The first thing you would do is give your dog a treat for running towards the Frisbee when you throw it. After a few days, you reinforce him/her again for picking up the Frisbee. Lastly, you reinforce the dog for learning to bring the Frisbee back to you. The idea in this scenario would be to shape the dog’s behavior by the process of successive approximations. By the end of this process, you should have been able to obtain the target behavior by working step by step in order to achieve it.

There are several books that Skinner has written throughout his lifetime. He introduced the concept of operant conditioning to the public in his first book, The Behavior of Organism (“World of Health,” 2006). He also wrote the novel Walden two (1948), and Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971). According to “Newsmaker” (1991), Walden two was translated into...

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