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Chapter 13

Chapter 13: Skinner and Behaviorism

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Simon Fraser University
PSYC 370
Robert Ley

PSYC 370 – Fall 2012 Book Notes: Chapter 13 – The Radical Behaviorism of B.F. Skinner Wilhelm Wundt - Introspection  trained subjects who describe their own experience to sensory stimulation - instructed experimental participants to release a key on personation of light - participants had 2 keys, releasing one to a red light, other to green light o Wundt compared the reaction times of the 2 conditions and took the difference as the time required to make decisions about perceptual differences  aka “mental chronometry” Edward Tichener (structuralism) - Goal was to analyze the structure of the generalized human mind, finding the essence of mental experience according to principles of association  aka structuralism John Watson (Behaviorism) - Structuralism as sterile and fundamentally non-scientific - Impressed by Pavlov’s discovery of the principles of classical conditioning and applied them to children’s acquisition of behavior - Behaviorism is objective natural science o Theoretic al goal is the prediction and control of behavior o Human being is born a tabula rasa- individuals are born without built-in mental content and that their knowledge comes from experience and perception B.F. Skinner saw classical conditioning as inconsequential beside the potent effects of the conditioning he describe as “operant” - Skinner came to reject “respondent conditioning” (skinner’s term for classical conditioning) as basically limited and uninteresting - Operant conditioning: learning process whereby the frequency of a response increases as a result of reinforcement that is contingent on the response being emitted. What is learned is the relation between the response and its reinforcement o makes strategic and practical sense to study the variables of conditioning experimentally and to manipulate them intelligently in human affairs Skinner’s behavioristic principles for psychology 1. Human being is a complex machine 2. Human behavior is the product of learning 3. Environment is neutral, doesn’t produce behavior 4. Behavior is not immutable, can change at any time in life 6 Major ideas form the basis of behaviorism 1. Association o Derived from the Locke, Hume & Mills, set the basis for the connection of experiences, providing the principle by which responses and stimuli are linked o Got rid of mentalisms and simplified the conception of mind o Popular appeal came with the demystification of learning 2. Functionalism o Emphasis on adaptation to the environment 3. Pragmatism o Brought practicality to psychology. Behaviorism is nothing if not a practical approach to learning and to behavior change 4. Environmentalism o Controlled by the environment and thus readily modifiable o Flatly rejected the self, the person each of us thought resided within us, but in recompense it held out the prospect of brining things we wanted to change 5. Materialism o Regarded mind as mechanistic matter. There was nothing mystical and incomprehensible about the mind. Psychology simply had to focus on the mind’s expression, behavior o Anyone could learn anything by the application of some simple principles 6. Experimentalism o Anything can be solved by experimental trial. This is an ideal going back to the founding of America Token Economy: operant methods to shape desirable behavior, with patients earning tokens that could be redeemed for privileges or spent in the hospital store Personal History – B.F. Skinner - Graduated from Hamilton College, where he majored in English, determined to become a writer, but failed - Admitted to psychology at Harvard, which had no behavioristic interest, he complete his PhD on relaxes under a biologist - Held a prestigious appointment at Harvard for 5 years and then moved to University of Minnesota and later became a professor at Harvard Emphases The Control of Behavior - Very first point about skinner’s approach is that behavior – human and other animals - derives from environmental events that can be controlled o Argued that it is better to control behavior rationally and intelligently than to deceive ourselves into believing that control is an evil thing Control of Individual Behavior - Bringing the behavior of individuals under the control of reinforcing stimuli - Wanted o see our understanding demonstrated in the individual case by changing situational or stimulus variables and reinforcing consequences to bring complex behavior under stimulus control, and he dismissed probabilistic laws derived from groups of subjects - Wanted “vernal applicability” established application of control Functional Analysis - Functional analysis: linking of behavior to antecedents; establishment of cause-and- effect relationships o When we link responses to their environmental causes, we have a wholly sufficient psychological and scientific explanation and do not need to invoke internal states o We study behavior to ensure that we fully control environmental events, but we can discover general laws from the study of the individual subjects What is Personality? - Abandon almost all of what we have learned in the study of personality, no more egos, superegos, selves, dynamisms, ness, repression, and no anxiety to mobilize it. - Skinner did recognize that some human behavior is variable and modifiable while some is relatively consistent and unchanging - “personality” refers to the behavioral attributes of a person, in which inferred structures and processes have no place - Best show our understanding of personality by brining behavior under control, using our knowledge of operant and the variables that determine them to change behavior and improve learning o Ex: an individual who is angry – did not have in mind the individual’s internal state, BUT the person’s observable actions – muscle clenched, fierce disapproving expression, hostile verbal behavior THE MAJOR CONCEPTS OF SKINNERIAN BEHAVIORISM Pavlovian (classical) conditioning: learning process through which an initially neutral stimulus (ex: ticking of a metronome), comes to elicit a particular response, such as salivation, as a consequence of being paired repeatedly with an unconditioned stimulus (ex: food) - Ex: a tone – Pavlov liked to use the tick of a metronome of the sound of water burbling, is closely followed by food in the mouth. The dog salivates to the food and presently, with repeated trials to the tone. Conditioned stimulus (tone): stimulus, that is initially neutral but that comes to elicit a particular response, such as salivation, only as a consequence of being paired with an unconditioned stimulus such as food Unconditioned stimulus (food): stimulus that automatically elicits an unconditioned response such as salivation without any prior process of conditioning Unconditioned response (reflex salivation to food in the mouth): response such as salivation, occurs automatically to an in conditioned stimulus such as food without prior process of conditioning Conditioned response (salivation to the conditioned stimulus): learned response that follows a conditioned stimulus - Type-S conditioning, because reinforcement is correlated with the stimuli that produce it. The behavior conditioned in this way is respondent behavior because it is elicited by and under the control of stimuli - Type-R
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