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Knock Wood!

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by

Billy Muldoon

on 19 November 2012

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Transcript of Knock Wood!

Knock Wood! Superstition in the Pigeon Background Info: B.F. Skinner is one of the most widely known psychologists in history, and is considered by most to be the father of radical behaviorism. He is also the inventor of the famous Skinner Box. Skinner was also the founder of the term "operant conditioning". Good consequences such as praise, receiving money, or solving a problem, will make it more likely for the behavior to be repeated in similar future events. These consequences are called reinforcers. Bad consequences, such as injuring yourself or feeling embarrassed will make the behavior less likely to be repeated in similar future events. These consequences are called punishers. Reason for the Experiment Skinner wanted to prove that superstition is not uniquely human, and that it can occur in animals, also. He did so, because many opposers of Skinner claimed that superstition requires human cognitive activity such as thinking, knowing, and learning. Skinner used his knowledge of operant conditioning to conduct this experiment. Skinner Box A skinner box is a chamber that contains a bar or key that an animal can press or manipulate in order for the chamber to dispense food or water as a type of reinforcement. When the animal used the key or bar, Skinner was able to detect the occurrence of a behavior response. However, the specific conditioning box used in Skinner's demonstration was designed with disks to be pecked instead of bars to be pressed.
The Experiment-1948 The subjects of this experiment were eight pigeons.
Skinner used a conditioning cage, however he made one important change to the cage: In order to study superstitious behavior, Skinner rigged the food dispenser to drop food pellets into the food tray at intervals of 15 seconds, regardless of what the animal was doing at that time.
This caused the animal to receive a reward every 15 seconds, no matter what it did (also known as non-contingent reinforcement)
The birds were fed less than their normal daily amount for several days, which caused them to be hungry when they were tested and therefore would make them highly motivated to perform behaviors for food. (By doing this, it increased the power of the reinforcement.)
Each pigeon was placed into the conditioning chamber for a few minutes each day, and was left to do what it wanted.
As the pigeon did what it wanted, reinforcement (food pellets) was being delivered automatically every 15 seconds.
After several days of conditioning in this way, two independent observers recorded the birds' behavior in the cage.
Results One bird was conditioned to turn counterclockwise around the cage, making two or three turns between reinforcements.
Another bird repeatedly thrust it's head into one of the upper corners of the cage.
The third bird developed a tossing response, as if it was placing it's head beneath an invisible bar and lifting it repeatedly.
Two birds developed a pendulum motion of the head and body in which the head was extended forward and swung from right to left with a sharp movement, and was then followed by a somewhat slower return.
Another bird was conditioned to make incomplete pecking or brushing movements directed toward but not touching the floor. Results cont'd. None of these behaviors were observed in the birds prior to the conditioning procedure. These newly-found behaviors had nothing to do with the pigeon receiving food, instead the birds behave as if a certain action would produce the food, which means they became superstitious. Recent Applications Skinner's article on superstitious behavior is cited in numerous studies, one of which compared two types of reinforcement in the development of superstitious behavior, which was conducted by three scientists in 2003. In this study, it states that positive reinforcement occurs when someone receives something desirable as a consequence (such as money, food, or praise), and that negative reinforcement rewards you by eliminating something undesirable (such as not having to do homework or avoiding any type of pain). This study found that greater levels of superstitious behavior developed under conditions of negative reinforcement than under positive reinforcement. R-einforcers
I-ncrease actions
P-unishers
E-nd actions Mnemonic Device
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