Module 21 Page 1
Learning - the process of acquiring new and relatively enduring information or behaviours.
Associative Learning - learning that certain events occur together. The events may be two
stimuli (as in classical conditioning) or a response and its consequences (as in operant
Stimulus - any event or situation that evokes a response.
Operant Conditioning - a type of learning in which behaviour is strengthened if followed by a
reinforcer or diminished if followed by a punisher. Behaviour that operates on the environment
to produce rewarding or punishing stimuli.
Skinner's Experiments (1904-1990)
Modern behaviourism's most influential and controversial figure
Elaborated on Edward L Thorndike's Law of Effect - Principle that behaviours followed
by favourable consequences become more likely and that behaviours followed by
unfavourable consequences become less likely.
Skinner using the Law of Effect revealed principles of behaviour control teaching
pigeons to walk in figure 8's, play ping-pong and keep a missile on course by pecking at a
Operant Chamber - in operant conditioning research, a chamber containing a bar or key
that an animal can manipulate to obtain a food or water reinforcer; attached devices
record the animals rate of bar pressing or key pecking.
Reinforcement - in operant conditioning, any event that strengthens the behaviour it
Shaping - an operant conditioning procedure in which reinforcers guide behaviour toward
closer and closer approximations of the desired behaviour
Method of Successive Approximation: you reward responses that are ever-close to the final
desired behaviour and ignore all other responses
Types of Reinforcers
Positive Reinforcer (Sr+) - when something pleasant is added to the situation and this increases
probability of the reinforcer re-occurring Module 21 Page 2
Negative Reinforcement - increasing behaviours by stopping or reducing negative stimuli. Any
stimulus that, when removed after a response, strengthens the response.
Primary Reinforcer - an innately reinforcing stimulus such as one that satisfies a biological
Conditioned Reinforcer (secondary reinforcer) - a stimulus that gains its reinforcing power
through its association with a primary reinforcer.
Factors that influence the effectiveness of a Positive Reinforcer
1. Magnitude of the Positive reinforcer
2. Immediacy of the Positive reinforcer
3. Scheduling of patterns of positive reinforcer
reinforcement intermittent or
schedule (CRF) partial reinforcement
variable fixed ratio interval (VI)
ratio (VR) (FR) fixed