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Skinner’S Research And Contributions To Psychology

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Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an influential American psychologist, who added to the vocabulary of behaviorism the concepts of negative and positive reinforcer and of punishment. Skinner also invented the operant conditioning chamber.

According to B. F. Skinner, positive reinforcement is the key to producing desired behaviors. Skinner believed that people " harder and learn more quickly when rewarded for doing something right than when punished for doing something wrong" (Charles, 1999).

According to the Skinner model of operant conditioning humans learn behaviors based on a trial and error process whereby they remember what behaviors elicited positive, or pleasurable, responses and which elicited negative ones. He derived these theories from observing the behaviors of rats and pigeons isolated in what have come to be known as Skinner boxes. Inside the boxes, rats that had been deprived of food were presented with a lever that, when pushed, would drop a pellet of food into the cage. Of course, the rat wouldn't know this, and so the first time it hit the lever, it was a purely accidental, the result of what Skinner called random trial and error behavior. Eventually, however, the rat would "learn" that hitting the lever resulted in the appearance of food and it would continue doing so. Receiving the food, then, in the language of operant conditioning, is considered the reinforcer while hitting the lever becomes the operant, the way the organism operates on its environment.

Skinner demonstrated that you can create superstitious behavior in animals. When an animal is placed in a Skinner box, that contains a device which can automatically dispense food and food is given to the animal every five minutes regardless what the animal does; the animal will typically develop a superstitious behavior. This will occur when for example the animal happens to pick up its right foot just as food is delivered: the



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