Chapter 16: B.F Skinner - Behavioural Analysis
Terms in this set (43)
Research with Skinner's behaviour management techniques has generally shown that
differences in temperament affect the manner in which people respond to behaviour management techniques
With what schedule of reinforcement is an organism reinforced for the first response following a designated period of time?
Skinner believed that passive resistance is most likely to be used after
escape and revolt have failed
What Freud saw as unconsciously motivated defense mechanisms, Skinner viewed as
inappropriate behaviours shaped by environmental contingencies
Explain Skinner's philosophy of science
Skinner believed that scientific behaviorism should not reference needs, instincts, or motives, because they limit the advancement of science.
Skinner used principles from the laboratory to interpret the behaviour of humans, but stated that interpretations should not be confused with an explanation.
To Skinner, science has three main characteristics:
science is cumulative
, it is an attitude that
values empirical observation
, and science is a search for
order and lawful relationships
Skinner believed that prediction, control, and description of human behaviour is possible because it is determined and lawful
Behavior that appears to be individually determined is simply beyond scientist's current ability to predict or control.
Discuss Skinner's concept of humanity.
Skinner was a
, believing people are not free but controlled by the environment; when people "control their lives" they do so by manipulating their environment to reflect change on themselves.
Skinner believed that people are capable of reflecting on their own nature and this behavior can be observed and studied.
Skinner's view of human nature is highly optimistic, believing that humans are very adaptable and learn to live harmoniously with their environment. He wishes for a utopian society where people are taught how to arrange the environment so that the probability of correct or satisfying solutions are increased.
Skinner's view is high on causality, believing that behavior is caused by a history of reinforcements and the species' contingencies for survival.
Skinner's view is high on unconscious dimensions of personality; these complex environmental contingencies responsible are beyond a person's awareness.
As previously said, Skinner believes that human behavior is based on the environment; but social environment plays an even more important role in personality development.
Skinner hoped people could be trustworthy, understanding, and empathetic but humans are not by nature good.
However, they can become so if they are exposed to proper contingencies of reinforcement.
Because the history of a person determines behavior, and each person's history of reinforcement is different,
Skinner stressed the uniqueness of the individual more so than their similarities.
Overview of Skinner's Behavioral Analysis
Behavioral models of personality avoided speculations about hypothetical constructs and concentrated almost exclusively on *
Skinner rejected the notion of free will and emphasized the primacy of environmental influences on behavior.
he was given the label of a radical behaviourist because of his strict adherence to observable events.No hypothetical unobservable constructs were allowed.
Skinner could also be labeled a determinist and environmentalist as he rejected the notion of free will; believing all human behaviour is lawfully determined and can be studied scientifically, and held that psychology should not explain behaviour on the basis of the physiological or constitutional components, but on the basis of environmental stimuli. Personality can be shaped by controlling the environment.
Biography of B. F. Skinner
B. F. Skinner was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania in 1904, the older of two brothers. While in college, Skinner wanted to be a writer, but after having little success in this endeavor, he turned to psychology. After earning a PhD from Harvard, he taught at the Universities of Minnesota and Indiana before returning to Harvard, where he remained until his death in 1990.
Precursors to Skinner's Scientific Behaviorism
Modern learning theory has roots in the work of Edward L. Thorndike and his experiments with animals during the last part of the 19th century.
law of effect
stated that all responses followed by a
tend to be
, and all stimuli followed by an
Satisfiers strengthen the connection between stimulus and response.
This concept anticipated Skinner's use of positive reinforcement to shape behavior.
Skinner was even more influenced by John Watson who argued that psychology must deal with the control and prediction of behavior and that behavior—not introspection, consciousness, or the mind—is the basic data of scientific psychology.
Skinner believed that human behavior, like any other natural phenomena, is subject to the laws of science, and that psychologists should not attribute inner motivations to it.
Although he rejected internal states (thoughts, emotions, desires, etc.) as being outside the realm of science, Skinner did not deny their existence. He simply insisted that they should not be used to explain behavior.
ex. scientists who say that people eat because they are hungry are assuming an unnecessary and unobservable mental condition between the physical fact of deprivation and the physical fact of eating. It's more concerned with cosmology or the concern with causation. psychology must avoid this to be deemed as scientific.
Philosophy of Science
Because the purpose of science is to predict and control, Skinner argued that psychologists should be concerned with determining the conditions under which human behavior occurs.
By discovering these conditions, psychologists can predict and control human behavior.
Characteristics of Science
Skinner held that science has three principal characteristics:
(1) its findings are
(2) it rests on an attitude that values
. This attitude must a) reject authority, b) demands intellectual honesty, & c) suspends judgement until clear trends emerge,
and (3) it searches for
order and reliable relationships
Skinner believed that prediction, control and description are possible in scientific behaviourism because a behaviour is both determined and lawful, it is determined by certain identifiable variables and follows finite lawful principles.
Skinner recognized two kinds of conditioning:
classical and operant
With classical conditioning, a response is drawn out of an organism by a specific, identifiable stimulus.
With operant conditioning, a behaviour is made more likely to recure when its stimulus is immediately reinforced.
a conditioned stimulus is paired with an unconditioned stimulus until it is capable of bringing about a previously unconditioned response.
For example, Watson and Rainier conditioned a young boy to fear a white rat (the conditioned stimulus) by associating it to a loud sudden noise (an unconditioned stimulus).
Eventually, through the process of generalization, the boy learned to fear stimuli that resembled the white rat.
reinforcement is used to increase the probability that a given behavior will recur. Skinner believed that most human behaviors and learned this way.
The organism acts in a specific way to produce a certain effect. This conditioning thus changes the frequency of a response or the probability that this response will happen again in the future.
Three factors are essential in operant conditioning:
in which behavior takes place;
, or response; and
that follows the behavior.
Psychologists and others use this to mold complex human behavior.
This is a procedure in which the experimenter or the environment first rewards gross approximations of the behaviour, then closer approximations, and finally the desired behaviour itself.
Through this process of
reinforcing successive approximations
*, the experimenter gradually shapes the final complex set of behaviours.
Different histories of reinforcement result in_____________, meaning that different organisms will respond differently to the same environmental contingencies. Example: two peoples may both behave the same by coming to eat at the dinner table, but both each individual may have had differing previous experiences of reacting in a similar way to have this behaviour reinforced.
People may also respond similarly to different environmental stimuli. Example, a college student buys a ticket for a concert she has never seen or heard, but whom she is told is similar to a band she already really likes. The reaction is the same as it would be in a similar situation because the situation possesses some identical elements.
Anything within the environment that strengthens a behavior and/or rewards a person is a reinforcer. Not every reinforcing behavior is rewarding.
* is any stimulus that when added to a situation increases the probability that a given behavior will occur. ex. food, sex, money
* is the strengthening of behavior through the removal of an aversive stimulus. ex. removal of loud noises, shocks, or hunger pangs.
Both positive and negative reinforcement strengthen behavior.
Any event that decreases a behavior either by presenting an aversive stimulus or by removing a positive one is called *
*. The effects of _________ are much less predictable than those of reward. Both punishment and reinforcement can result from either natural consequences or from human imposition. Punishment can be used to suppress behaviour, condition negative feelings, but it can also spread the effect and become maladaptive in the form of defence mechanisms.
Conditioned and Primary Reinforcers.
Conditioned reinforcers or secondary reinforcers
are those stimuli that are not by nature satisfying (e.g., money), but that can become so when they are associated with
a primary reinforcer
, such as food.
______________ are conditioned reinforcers that have become associated with several primary reinforcers. ex. attention, approval, affection, submission, money.
Reinforcement can follow behavior on either a continuous schedule or on an intermittent schedule.
Schedules of Reinforcement
There are four basic intermittent schedules:
, on which the organism is reinforced intermittently according to the number of responses it makes;
, on which the organism is reinforced after an average of a predetermined number of responses;
, on which the organism is reinforced for the first response following a designated period of time; and
, on which the organism is reinforced after the lapse of various periods of time.
The tendency of a previously acquired response to become progressively weakened upon nonreinforcement is called *
Such elimination or weakening of a response is called classical extinction in a classical conditioning model and operant extinction when the response is acquired through operant conditioning.
Extinction is seldom systematically applied to human behaviour outside therapy or behaviour modification.
The Human Organism
Skinner believed that human behavior is shaped by three forces: (1) natural selection, (2) the evolution of cultures, and (3) the individual's personal history of reinforcement, which we discussed above.
A. Natural Selection
As a species, our behavior is shaped by the contingencies of survival; that is, those behaviors (e.g., sex and aggression) that were beneficial to the human species tended to survive, whereas those that did not tend to drop out.
B. Cultural Evolution
Those societies that evolved certain cultural practices (e.g. tool making and language) tended to survive. Currently, the lives of nearly all people are shaped, in part, by modern tools (computers, media, various modes of transportation, etc.) and by their use of language. However, humans do not make cooperative decisions to do what is best for their society, but those societies whose members behave in a cooperative manner tended to survive.
Skinner recognized the existence of such inner states as drives and self-awareness, but he rejected the notion that they can explain behavior.
To Skinner, *
* refer to the effects of deprivation and satiation and thus are related to the probability of certain behaviors in response, but they are not the causes of behavior.
Skinner believed that *
* can be accounted for by the contingencies of survival and the contingencies of reinforcement; but like drives, they do not cause behavior.
purpose and intention
* are not causes of behavior, although they are felt sensations and exist within the skin.
We not only observe external stimuli but are also aware of ourselves observing this stimulus. Behaviour is a function of the environment and part of this environment is within one's own skin. Each person is subjectively aware of their own inner workings and it can, therefore, be observed subjectively.
Human behavior is subject to the same principles of operant conditioning as simple animal behavior, but it is much more complex and difficult to predict or control.
Skinner believed that most of our behavior is unconscious or automatic and that not thinking about certain experiences is reinforcing.
Skinner viewed dreams as covert and symbolic forms of behavior that are subject to the same contingencies of reinforcement as any other behavior.
Control of Human Behavior
Ultimately, all of a person's behavior is controlled by the environment.
Societies exercise control over their members through laws, rules, and customs that transcend any one person's means of counter control.
There are four basic methods of social control: (
1) operant conditioning, including positive and negative reinforcement and punishment;
(2) describing contingencies, or using language to inform people of the consequence of their behaviors;
(3) deprivation and satiation, techniques that increase the likelihood that people will behave in a certain way; and
(4) physical restraint, including the jailing of criminals.
Although Skinner denied the existence of free will, he did recognize that people manipulate variables within their own environment and thus exercise some measure of *
*, which has several techniques: (1) physical restraint, (2) physical aids, such as tools; (3) changing environmental stimuli; (4) arranging the environment to allow escape from aversive stimuli; (5) drugs; and (6) doing something else.
The Unhealthy Personality
Social control and self-control sometimes produce counteracting strategies and inappropriate behaviors.
A. Counteracting Strategies:
People can counteract excessive social control by (1) escaping from it, (2) revolting against it, or (3) passively resisting it.
B. Inappropriate Behaviors:
Inappropriate behaviors follow from self-defeating techniques of counteracting social control or from unsuccessful attempts at self-control.
Skinner was not a psychotherapist, and he even criticized psychotherapy as being one of the major obstacles to a scientific study of human behavior.
Nevertheless, others have used operant conditioning principles to shape behavior in a therapeutic setting.
Behavior therapists play an active role in the treatment process, using behavior modification techniques and pointing out the positive consequences of some behaviors and the aversive effects of others.
Skinner's theory has generated more research than any other personality theory. Much of this research can be divided into two questions: (1) How does operant conditioning affect personality? and (2) How does personality affect conditioning?
In addition to these two questions, a recent development in research, due to technological advances, has been the study of reinforcement as related to brain activation.
How Conditioning Affects Personality
A plethora of studies have demonstrated that operant conditioning can change personality, that is, behavior. For example, a study by Tidey et al. found that, when given a choice, smokers would choose a cigarette rather than money.
How Personality Affects Conditioning
Research has also found that different personalities may react differently to the same environmental stimuli. This means that the same reinforcement strategies will not have the same effect on all people.
C. Reinforcement and the Brain
Recent advances in imaging have allowed researchers to analyze individual differences in brain activation as responses to stimuli such as food (Beaver et al, 2006). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, John Beaver and his colleagues gave the behavioral activation scale (BAS) self-report to participants to measure how actively they tend to pursue rewards. They then measured the subjects' brain activation upon exposure to pictures of rewarding foods versus bland foods. They found that people who scored higher on the personality variable of behavioral activation also had greater activation to pictures of rewarding foods in five specific areas of the brain. These results supported the general conclusion that personality is related to differences in how we biologically respond to rewards. This research holds future promise, for possibly helping to alter health outcomes such as obesity, and for understanding what people find rewarding and why.
Critique of Skinner
On the six criteria of a useful theory, Skinner's approach rates very high on its ability to generate research and to guide action, high on its ability to be falsified, and about average on its ability to organize knowledge. In addition, it rates very high on internal consistency and high on simplicity.
Concept of Humanity
Skinner's concept of humanity was a completely deterministic and causal one that emphasized unconscious behavior and the uniqueness of each person's history of reinforcement within a mostly social environment. Unlike many determinists, Skinner is quite optimistic in his view of humanity.
Skinners theory of personality is largely based on
His behavioural analysis of rats and pigeons
Skinner also identified two forms of punishment
the adding of aversive stimulus and the removal of the positive stimulus.
Reinforcement can either be
continuous or intermittent, but intermittent schedules are more efficient.
People can control their own behaviour through
Self-control but all control ultimately rests with the environment, not free will.
Unhealthy behaviour is learned the same way as all others mostly through
The change unhealthy behaviour
therapists use a variety of behaviour modification techniques all based on operant conditioning principles.
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