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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. ...read more.


Skinner proposes two types of reinforcement that increase the likelihood of a response occurring: positive, and negative. Positive reinforcement (reward) involves a positive consequence of behaviour. In contrast, a negative reinforcement (Relief) involves a behaviour that results in the elimination or prevention of a negative outcome. (Lefrancois, 1995). Punishment Like reinforcement, punishment can also determine the probability of whether behaviour will occur again. There are two types of punishment. One can be termed negative punishment, and involves the cessation of a positive event as a result of responding (Kentridge, 1995). For example, a reprimanded for bad behaviour. The other can be termed punishment, and involves a negative or aversive event in relation to responding (Kentridge, 1995). For example, receiving a fine for exceeding the speed limit. ...read more.


Extinction, in Skinner's system occurs when a reinforcement that has been given in the past to elicit a certain response, is eliminated, or stopped. Summary In summary, Skinner's theory explains the behaviour of humans and animals in terms of the responses 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. ...read more.

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