PSYC 231 - Chapter 12 - B. F. Skinner

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PSYC 231
Angela Howell- Moneta

Chapter 12: B.F. Skinner: Reinforcement Theory Rats, Pigeons, and an Empty Organism - His research did not specifically deal with personality - Attempted to account for all behaviour - Psychologists must restrict their investigations to facts, to what they can see, manipulate, and measure in the lab - Made no reference to internal, subjective states - Unconscious influences, defence mechanisms, traits, and other driving forces cannot be seen - Not that they aren’t present, they just aren’t useful for science - Same with physiological forces - Humans are ‘empty organisms’ – there is nothing inside us that can explain behaviour in scientific terms - Used rats and pigeons – human behaviour differs in the degree, but not the kind - The fundamental processes are similar - Should move from simple to complex – animal behaviour is simpler Reinforcement: The Basis of Behaviour - Behaviour can be controlled by its consequences – what follows the behaviour Two kinds of behaviour: Respondent behaviour: response made to or elicited by a specific stimulus - Reflexive behaviour – unlearned, automatic, and involuntary - Learned behaviour – conditioning – substitution of one stimulus for another (Pavlov) - Reinforcement – strengthening a response by adding a reward – increase likelihood of behaviour occurring - Extinction – eliminating a behaviour by withholding reinforcement - Behaviour has no effect on the environment Operant behaviour: behaviour emitted spontaneously or voluntarily that operates on the environment to change it - Operant > respondent according to Skinner - Acting in a way that is voluntary rather than acting involuntarily to a stimulus Operant Conditioning and the Skinner Box Operant conditioning: the procedure by which a change in the consequences of a response will affect the rate at which the response occurs Skinner box: a food-deprived rat is placed in the box, its behaviour first spontaneous and random - Rat depresses a lever causing a food pellet to drop into a trough – food is a reinforcer for the behaviour of pressing the bar - More bar pressing = more food release - If the unreinforced behaviour no longer works, in that it no longer brings a reward, after a while it will stop Schedules of Reinforcement - Our behaviour is rarely reinforced every time it occurs - Rats will continue to press the bar at a fairly consistent rate even when they were not being reinforced for each response Reinforcement schedules: patterns or rates of providing or withholding reinforcers Four types of reinforcement schedules 1. Fixed-interval – the reinforcer is presented following the first response that occurs after a fixed time interval has elapsed  Timing has nothing to do with the number of responses  The shorter the interval between presentations of the reinforcer, the greater the frequency of response  The response stopped sooner if the rat had been reinforced continuously and the reinforcement was then stopped than if the rat had been reinforced intermittently 2. Fixed-ratio – reinforcers are given only after the organism has made a specified number of responses 3. Variable-interval – the reinforcer might appear 2 hours in the first instance, 1:30 in the second, and 2:15 in the third  May or may not be rewarded – fishing 4. Variable-ratio – based on an average number of responses between reinforcers  Effective in bringing about high and stable response rate
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