B.F. Skinner Operant Conditioning
American psychologist B.F. Skinner developed the term “operant conditioning”. Nearly every psychology course in colleges across the nation study Skinner's work on operant conditioning. When a research paper on Skinner's work is required of you, have Paper Masters custom write you one on Skinner's psychological theory of operant conditioning.
Operant Conditioning is a type of learning in which an individual’s behavior is modified through reinforcement or punishment. Skinner’s 1938 work The Behavior of Organisms was the beginning of his work in the field of operant conditioning.
Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov was influential in developing classical conditioning, as best known through his famous experiments with dogs. Skinner, taking this a step further, created the operant conditioning chamber and removed the subject, frequently a rat or pigeon, from all external stimuli, leaving them only one of two choices.
Skinner's Research on Operant Conditioning
According to Simple Psychology, Skinner then encouraged or extinguished behavior with a schedule of reinforcement. Both reinforcement and punishment are the backbone of operant conditioning, and come in both positive and negative forms, as described below:
- Positive means that stimulus is delivered following a response.
- Negative means that the stimulus is withdrawn after the response.
- Reinforcement seeks to encourage a behavior.
- Punishment attempts to have that behavior occur less.
In order to change human behavior, operant conditioning has developed a four-point protocol. First, a goal is stated. Second, behavior is monitored to see if the desired behavior is occurring. Desired behaviors are reinforced in order to continue progress. Fourth, incentives that produce undesirable behavior are reduced.
Current Research on Operant Conditioning
The research papers from Paper Masters on operant conditioning illustrate that operant conditioning was initially presented as mechanistic. In other words, Skinner did not take into account the process of cognition in designing his theory. Recent research has challenged this belief. The process of food aversion, which all mammals share, is evidence of cognition. Also, the concept of cognitive maps provides researchers with support for the use of cognition in the conditioning process. Cognitive maps relate to studies where mice are placed in a maze, free to wander around. At a later time, they are conditioned to go through the maze. Although this occurs through operant conditioning, the study shows that the mice familiar with the maze seem to create a “cognitive map” which allows them to be conditioned at a much faster rate than mice that are not familiar with the maze.
The current consensus regarding operant conditioning is that some processes are mediated cognitively and some are not. Some learning processes occur without conditioning, such as observational learning. Studies have shown that people will respond as if they have been conditioned if the experimenter merely informs them about environmental contingencies. Many psychologists concur that although classical conditioning is a basic process of learning, “behavioral flexibility requires greater complexity”. People, therefore, have the ability to form stimulus-response relationships not only through conditioning, but through suggestion, or deliberate effort.