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B.F. Skinner. psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. Life. Born March 20, 1904 Died August 18, 1990 of leukemia 1926 received a B.A. in English Literature from Hamilton College

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B f skinner

B.F. Skinner

psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher

B f skinner

  • Born March 20, 1904

  • Died August 18, 1990 of leukemia

  • 1926 received a B.A. in English Literature from Hamilton College

  • Skinner was struggling as a writer when he discovered the works of John Watson and Ivan Pavlov

  • Skinner was extremely interested in Pavlov’s work on Classical Conditioning

  • This interest made Skinner decide to quit writing and enter a psychology graduate program at Harvard University in 1928

  • 1931- Skinner received his PhD from Harvard

  • 1936-Skinner married Yvonne Blue and had 2 daughters

  • 1948-Skinner joined the Psychology Department at Harvard University

  • He remained at Harvard for the rest of his career


  • Wrote 200 articles

  • Wrote 20 Books

  • Won many awards for his research:

  • 1966- Edward Lee Thorndike Award, American Psychological Association

  • 1968 - National Medal of Science from President Lyndon B. Johnson

  • 1971 - Gold Medal of the American Psychological Foundation

  • 1990 - Citation for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology

  • Skinner’s work is used today by many people including teachers, animal trainers, and mental health professionals

Operant conditioning theory
Operant Conditioning Theory

  • Skinner believed that thoughts and motivation could not be used to explain behavior. He suggested that we should look at the external observable causes of human behavior.

  • Skinner's theory explained how we acquire the range of learned behaviors we exhibit each and every day.

  • Sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning

  • Through operant conditioning an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior

Skinner box
Skinner Box

  • Skinner is often referred to as the Father of Operant Conditioning.

  • He studied operant conditioning by conducting experiments in what now is called Skinner Box.

  • Skinner Box is a box that an animal is placed in that has a bar or a key that the animal can press in order to get food or water as a type of reinforcement.

  • Rats and pigeons were mostly used in these experiments.

Skinner box1
Skinner Box

  • The point of these studies were to exhibit that behaviors can be learned through reinforcements and punishers.

  • He used rats to show that this was an innate trait present that all animals would exhibit.

  • Skinner believed that humans learn behaviors in exactly the same ways that other animals do.

  • The learning was done by way of “shaping” the individual.

Skinner box2
Skinner Box

This picture shows Skinner performing this experiment

Operant conditioning theory1
Operant Conditioning Theory

  • Skinner used the term operant to refer to any “active” behavior that operates upon the environment to generate consequences.

  • Principle reinforcement: implies that consequences of behavior would influence whether the behavior would occur in the future or not. There are two kinds of reinforcements.

    • Positive reinforcement

    • Negative reinforcement


  • Reinforcement is any event that strengthens or increases the behavior it follows.

    • Positive reinforcements are favorable events or outcomes that are presented after the behavior. In situations that reflect positive reinforcement, a response or behavior is strengthened by the addition of something, such as praise or a direct reward.

    • Negative reinforcements involve the removal of an unfavorable events or outcomes after the display of a behavior. In these situations, a response is strengthened by the removal of something considered unpleasant.


  • The effectiveness of the reinforcement is directly correlated to the schedule in which it is presented.

    • Continuous reinforcement: reinforcement is presented after every occurrence.

    • Partial reinforcements: reward is only presented occasionally, based on a schedule

      • Fixed interval: pertaining to time.

      • Fixed ratio: pertaining to number of responses.


  • Punishment, on the other hand, is the presentation of an adverse event or outcome that causes a decrease in the behavior it follows. There are two kinds of punishment:

    • Positive punishment, sometimes referred to as punishment by application, involves the presentation of an unfavorable event or outcome in order to weaken the response it follows.

    • Negative punishment, also known as punishment by removal, occurs when an favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs.

Theory application
Theory Application

  • Theory Examples:

  • Scenario 1:Your father gives you a credit card at the end of your first year in college because you did so well. As a result, your grades continue to get better in your second year.

  • Answer:Thecredit card is a positive reinforcement because it is given and it increases the behavior.

  • Scenario 2: A lion in a circus learns to stand up on a chair and jump through a hoop to receive a food treat.

  • Answer: The food treat is a positive reinforcement because it is given and it increases the behavior.

Theory application cont
Theory Application Cont.

  • Scenario 3: A professor has a policy of exempting students from the final exam if they maintain perfect attendance during the quarter. His students’ attendance increases dramatically.

  • Answer: The exemption from the final exam is a negative reinforcement because something is taken away that increases the behavior (attendance).

B f skinner

A Case Study Employing Operant Conditioning to Reduce Stress of Capture for Red-Bellied Tamarins (Saguinuslabiatus).

Visual representations of theory
Visual Representations of Theory of Capture for Red-Bellied

Memory tools
Memory Tools of Capture for Red-Bellied

  • Operant conditioning focuses on one’s behavior and the way one “operates”

  • “Operate” sounds like Operant

Works cited
Works Cited of Capture for Red-Bellied

  • B. F. Skinner (2013). The Biography Channel website. Retrieved 04:04, Jul 16, 2013, from http://www.biography.com/people/bf-skinner-9485671.

  • Buggey, T. (2007, Summer). Storyboard for Ivan's morning routine. Diagram. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 9(3), 151. Retrieved July 14, 2013, from Academic Search Premier database.

  • Cherry, Kendra (2013). B.F. Skinner Biography (1904-1990). Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesofmajorthinkers/p/bio_skin er.htm

  • Cherry, Kendra (2013). Skinner Box Definition. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/sindex/g/def_skinnerbox.htm

  • Good Therapy.org (2013). B.F. Skinner (1904-1990). Retrieved from http://www.goodtherapy.org/famous-psychologists/bf-skinner.html

  • McLeod, S. A. (2007). B.F. Skinner Operant Conditioning - Simply Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant conditioning.html

  • Shteingart, H., Neiman, T., & Loewenstein, Y. (2013). The Role of First Impression in Operant Learning. Journal Of Experimental Psychology. General, 142(2).