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B.F. Skinner: Theory of Bevaviorism
Transcript of B.F. Skinner: Theory of Bevaviorism
Examples of others impacts of Behaviorism
Behavior Modification: a set of theories /techniques based on operant conditioning
Token Economy: targeted behaviors are reinforced with tokens (secondary reinforcers i.e. fake money, buttons, stickers...) and are later exchanged for rewards (primary reinforcers i.e. snacks, homework passes, extra recess...)
Positive Reinforcement: compliments, approval, encouragement and affirmation (ratio of 5 compliments to 1 criticism is seen as most effective) to alter behavior
Particularly useful with students with learning difficulties
In conventional classroom applies largely to classroom management verses content learning
Is relevant to shaping skills performance i.e. memorizing math facts
B.A. in English Literature 1926 from Hamilton College
Had a passion for writing, but failed to be a "professional writer" (his "dark period")
Inspired by works of Ivan Pavlov and John B. Watson
Ph.D. in Psychology 1931 from Harvard
The Behavior of Organisms
Taught at University of Minnesota
Developed The Skinner Box
Famed for teaching Pigeons to play ping pong
Built a new type of crib the "baby tender"
Developed The Cumulative Recorder
Full Name Burrhus Fredric Skinner
AKA B.F. Skinner
Born in Susquehanna,Pennsylvania in 1904
Died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1990
Best know for developing the theory of behaviorism
Interest as a child in building gadgets and contraptions
Critical discovery: importance of reinforcement
Today daughter Julie S. Vargus runs B.F. Skinner Foundation (bfskinner.org)
B.F. Skinner referred to his own philosophy as "radical behaviorism"
Believed free will is an illusion
Human action is the result of conditioning
Reinforcement: any event that, presented after a response , increases the probability of that the response will be repeated.
Positive reinforcement: strengthens a behavior by providing a consequence an individual finds rewarding.
Negative reinforcement: removes an adverse stiumli which "rewards" the individual.
Punishment: presenting something that will decrease the probability that a certain response will be repeated.
A way to study operant conditioning
Based on Edward Thorndike's
and his theory of
"Law and Effect"
Concluded that some form of reinforcement was crucial in learning new behaviors
Positive Reinforcement: Rat received reward of food for pressing lever
Negative Reinforcement: Unpleasant electric current on floor of cage switched off if rat hits lever
Behavior not reinforced will
The Skinner Box
B.F. Skinner: Theory of Behaviorism
by Carey Grucza for EMAT619
Student Interaction and Instruction
In the Classroom
1945 Chair of Psychology Department at Indiana University
1948 Professor at Harvard (remained at Harvard for rest of life)
Developed a teaching machine
Some of his prominent publishing's (was a prolific writer)
The Technology of Teaching
Beyond Freedom and Dignity
The Teaching Machine
Wrote a series of autobiographies
Continued to be active in the field of behavioral psychology
Many accolades including: 1972 Humanist of the Year
Gave a talk to a crowded auditorium for the American Psychological Association ten days before he died of Leukemia
Finish the article from which the talk was taken on the day he died, August 18, 1990
Work compared to Ivan Pavlov's (dog salivating at sound of bell; an involuntary response to stimuli)
Differed from Pavlov because Skinner's work involved learned response to an environment rather than an involuntary response
Proposed a type of Utopian Society
Lead by good citizens through behavior modification
Publication undermined Skinner's credibility with some of academic colleagues
Wrote to set the record straight regarding misinterpretations of his work
Drew fire for implying that humans had no free will or individual consciousness
The Cumulative Recorder
Recorded responses as a sloped line
Indicated rate of response
Higher response rates followed rewards
Lower response rates followed lack of reward
Allowed Skinner to conclude that the schedule of reinforcement influenced the rate of response
Trained pigeons to serve a guides for bombing runs during WWII
Project canceled, but resulted with this famed example of reinforcement
The Baby Tender
Built for daughter Julie
Skinner wanted to create a labor saving invention to help his wife with their 2nd child
Heated so baby did not need blankets; free movement and less fussy
No slats like a crib; safer
Healthier (window kept germs out)
Easy care (sheet roller at bottom)
Ladies Home Journal printed article and titled it "Baby in a Box"; contributed misunderstandings
Future literature started rumors that Skinner experimented on daughter (Julie) and she as a result committed suicide (all untrue)
Example of Positive Reinforcement
Example of Positive Reinforcement
Criticism of Skinner's Theory of Operant Conditioning:
Fails to take into account role of inherited and cognitive factors in learning
Incomplete explanation of the learning process (i.e. insight and observation)
Some psychologist argue we cannot generalize studies on animals to humans because the anatomy and physiology is different; animals cannot invoke reason, patience, memory or self-comfort.
Built to make education more efficient and keep up with demands of larger classrooms
Creates an active receiver of instruction
Immediate self-scoring device (positive reinforcement)
Machine permits each student to proceed at their own pace (differentiation)
Mass production=labor saving
Like a private tutor; only presents new material when the student is ready
Student does not need to wait for an exam to know proficiency level
Not intended to replace teachers
Skinner predicted this technology would improve teacher productivity and therefore increase their pay; maybe change the definition of grading
Would be effective for students who have to miss school (i.e. long term illness) and home study
Could be adapted to Braille or used for technical training
An example applying Behaviorism in the classroom
Note Positive reinforcement use:
Compliments (thank you, awesome job, perfect, love these brains turned on, you guys are so smart...)
Rewards ("one second party"-token economy points on board?)
Non-verbal affirmations (smiles...)
Encouragements( chanting name...)
Applied in behavioral counseling for problems such as nail-biting, narcotics addiction, child abuse, phobias and even criminal recidivism
Obesity epidemic: Weight Watchers bases it's program on behavior modification; rewarding gradual change in routines verses punishing battle of will power and deprivation
Skinner actually wrote about diet and exercise as an example of behavior modification in 1957 (American Scientist); cited Harvard study on "behavioral obesity"
Alcohol Anonymous also bases it's program on behavior modification
"He used to say that the ultimate worth of a science is in how much good it can do in the world" -
Julie Vargus, reflecting on her Father
Negative Reinforcement vs Punishment
t it right?
Example of Negative Reinforcement
There's an app for that!
Positive reinforcement for children with Asthma
Biographical Information. Retrieved 12:27, Feb 23, 2015, from http://www.bfskinner.org/archives/biographical-information/
Cherry, K. A. (2005). B. F. Skinner Biography (1904-1990). Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesofmajorthinkers/p/bio_skinner.htm
Freedman. D.H. (2012). The Perfected Self. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/06/the-perfected-self/308970/
Lattal, K. A. (2004). Steps and pips in the history of the cumulative recorder. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 82(3), 329–355. doi:10.1901/jeab.2004.82-329
McLeod, S. A. (2007). Skinner - Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html
Skinner, B.F. (1945). Baby in a Box. Retrieved 12:27, Feb 23, 2015, from
Skinner, B.F. (1964) New methods and new aims in teaching. Retrieved 12:27, Feb 23, 2015, from
Skinner, B.F. (1958). Teaching Machines Retrieved 12:27, Feb 23, 2015, from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/128/3330/969.extract
Skinner, B.F. (2015). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 12:27, Feb 23, 2015, from http://www.biography.com/people/bf-skinner-9485671.
Skinner, B.F. (1947). Superstition in the Pigeon. Retrieved 12:27, Feb 23, 2015, from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Skinner/Pigeon/
Skinner on Education: Excerpt from 1972 Movie