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Operant Conditioning, A Theory Developed By B.F. Skinner

1101 words - 5 pages


Dating back to the 1800’s, many theories have developed in reference to Child Development. There have been theories that have become classics and those that continue to cause controversy. Doing research on these theories one of them really stood out to me and that is the one of B.F. Skinner. Skinner believed that the best way to understand behavior is to look at the causes of an action and its consequences. He called this approach operant conditioning. The main principles of operant conditioning, as defined by Skinner, are reinforcement, punishment, shaping, extinction, discrimination, and generalization.
Reinforcement is the key ...view middle of the document...

They broke curfew because they were out late with their friends. To punish undesirable behavior the parents take away his or her driving privilege for a week with the exception of driving to and from school. According to Skinner, children operate on their own environments, adjusting their behaviors to attract more reinforcements and to avoid punishment (Cook).
Next comes shaping, extinction, discrimination, and generalization.
Shaping is the technique of selectively reinforcing certain behaviors while ignoring or punishing others. This element has been applied to the learning theory of language development. Extinction is referring to the elimination of the behavior by stopping reinforcement of the behavior (Bauer). Next we have discrimination, which in Skinners theory is referenced to learning that a behavior will be rewarded in one situation, but not another. Generalization is the last element made up in Skinners theory. In generalization, a behavior may be performed in more than one situation.
Skinner divided behaviorism into respondent conditioning and operant conditioning, the latter of which he defined as explaining how the consequence of a behavior controlled the future occurrence of that same behavior. He believed all behavior could be explained by an action performed and the valence of its consequence (Schacter). His work remains extremely influential in the worlds of psychology, behaviorism, and education.
This theory compares and contrasts with experiences and beliefs in my life very easily. One event just happened two weeks ago. My son, who is only six years old, got mad at school and so he punched one of his classmates. He even tried to justify his actions by saying the kid was being mean to him. Well, I don’t believe in telling my kid “don’t hit” and then I go ahead and spank him. I’m sorry but that is just about the most hypocritical action to take. So instead, he was grounded for a week. He could not play outside with his friends, he was not allowed to play with any toys unless they were educational or artistic, and he was not allowed to watch any television. Since then, the teacher has reported back to me that he has been keeping his hands to himself and has not gotten into any trouble since that event.
My next example is about my son as well, it is from when he was a baby....

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