B. F. Skinner's Radical Behaviorism, Free Essay in Psychology

Published: 2019-08-29
B. F. Skinner's Radical Behaviorism, Free Essay in Psychology
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Human behavior Behavior change
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1305 words
11 min read

Skinner is established as the great mind behind operant conditions where he introduced various reinforcements. After conducting several experiments with animals in his Skinner Box, he came to a conclusion on human behaviorism. Operant conditioning explains that a person's behavior results in consequences, and the nature of these outcomes determines the organisms tendency to repeat the same actions in future. Skinner further established that an organism demonstrates three kinds of operant or responses from their behavior. These reinforcers are namely neutral operant, reinforcers, and punishers. Therefore, this entire study will discuss the reinforcement concepts and then apply one of these theories on real life situations while considering their schedules and other factors that may affect their responsiveness.

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Positive and negative reinforcement

Positive reinforcement as Skinner explains is that if an organism is presented with something that they like, and then it is possible that they will continually keep doing the same action repeatedly. From his experiment, Skinner placed a lever inside the box and every time the rat accidently knocked on it food pellets would drop. With this continued reward, the rat quickly learned to go straight to the lever each time it needed food (Skinner, 2015). From this experiment, Skinner established that individual keep doing something repeatedly if the outcomes they get are positive or rewarding.

Negative Reinforcement

Skinner from this concept explained that removing a painful experience can strengthen a persons ability to undertake repeatedly an action. He established this by subjecting a rat to electric current but while it moved around the organism would accidentally touch the lever, and the unpleasant feeling would disappear (Skinner, 2014). Therefore, the rat learned to hit the bar every time the electric shock would be switched on. In fact, Skinner even taught the rat to respond to light which acted as an indicator that the electric shock was about to occur.


The punishment concept is the opposite of both reinforcers. Punishment is designed to eliminate or weaken a particular response instead of encouraging its repetition through imposing painful stimuli.

Primary and Secondary Reinforcers

These kinds of reinforcers are naturally occurring because of their direct consequences which are meant to satisfy a need, for instance, food and water. On the other hand, secondary reinforces indirectly meet a need thus they are closely associated with particular primary reinforcers. They, therefore, act as a means through which the primary reinforcers are satisfied (Skinner, 2015). For instance, it is not possible to eat money, but it can be used to buy food or water these reinforcers act as powerful motivators to attain the primary needs.

Reinforcement Schedules

During the experiment, Skinner discovered that the different patterns of support each had a different effect on the speed through which an organism can learn or become extinct (Skinner, 2014). He thus came up with some reinforcement schedules which include intermittent, continuous reinforcements, fixed, random, interval, and ratio reinforcements.

Continuous and Intermittent Reinforcements

This paradigm of thinking established that an organism can repetitively exhibit the desired behavior if they are positively reinforced on each occasion. For instance, every time the rat in his box pushed the pedal the result was food pellets which would satisfy its needs (Skinner, 2015). On the other hand, intermittent reinforcement is a positive consequence which is accorded an organism only when they give the desired responses.

Fixed and Random Reinforcements Schedules

Fixed ratio reinforcements are positively given to a body only if the response you want is repeated for a particular number of times. For instance, every correct fifth time it demonstrates the desired responses. Random reinforcements are given after an organism has exhibited an unpredictable number of desired responses. This reinforcement schedule is especially applicable in gambling and fishing.

Interval and Ratio Reinforcement Schedules

Interval reinforcement explains that an organism is accorded a reward if at least one correct response is exhibited after a fixed period. While the variable ratio reinforcement schedule explains that before an award can be given an organism must have repeated the desired behavior and can be assessed by an average number of times it has been exhibited (Skinner, 2014). For example, an organism must have repeated a behavior for about 3, 4 or 5 times so that the reinforcement can be scheduled at the average that is 4.

Using the Continuous Reinforcement Schedules on Real-life Situations

In schools, teachers are often faced with difficulties of instilling and teaching the importance of communicating in the appropriate way in students. This is especially when it comes to using polite words during communication. For instance, the younger children enrolled in schools. For example, every time Mary uses the word please to request for permission to speak, ask a question, consult a friend, or when she needs to be assisted with her friends property, then her teacher should praise her in every occasion. By so doing the teacher will be applying the continuous reinforcement schedule in promoting a consistent repetition of this desired behavior in Mary and others in her class. The teacher should provide praise by saying Mary that is good using the word please is excellent communication skills keep it up. Particularly, the continuous reinforcement schedule is important in teaching new behavior not only usage of polite communication skills. This is because when teachers embark on teaching a new behavior they need to provide frequent reinforcement in order to increase the amount of time the student engages in repeating the already trained behavior.

Nonetheless, using continuous reinforcing schedule in a particular behavior in children is affected by several concepts particularly spontaneous recovery, extinction, and forgetting factors (Skinner, 2014). The extinction theory explains that a conditioned response stops being exhibited once the expected reward does not follow as expected. As for the learning platform children are often discouraged from repetitively eliciting the desired behavior if their teachers do not continuously praise them for demonstrating the behavior you want as they have always been reinforced. Spontaneous recovery supports the extinction concept. This is because spontaneous recovery explains that every time an organism elicits the conditioned stimulus and they are not accorded the expected rewards the behavior they had attained begins to fade out. However, if the reinforcer during another session demonstrates that the reinforcement schedule they had adopted initially is being repeated on several occasions the organism tends to exhibit the desired behavior. Therefore, this factor affects children learning too because if the teacher stops praising them frequently then starts again during a different session students may exhibit the desired behavior but with less effort and vigor which leads to the extinction of the already acquired behavior (Skinner, 2015). On the other hand, the forgetting concept affects learning in several ways. Forgetting is defined as a theory where the memory decays and the information acquired fades away or gets erased in the brain. The forgetting concepts further provide that some information due to weak consolidation and practice fades away from the human brain. Also, interference during retrieval could prevent an organism from exhibiting the desired behavior. In the case of teaching children of the correct communication languages teachers often forget to praise their students for work well done. Therefore, these children may forget the importance of using good communication language, where to use it, how, and when to use it. Moreover, due to constant disruptions from their classmates and other classroom environment factors the behavior already attained could be forgotten consequently.

Skinner did an excellent job of explaining the behaviorism of organisms in relation to the consequences of their actions. These behavioral exhibitions are apparently being used in defining various real life situations and especially the reinforcement concept. However, other external factors can prevent this positive reinforcement patterns from being termed as valid.


Skinner, B. F. (2014). Contingencies of reinforcement: A theoretical analysis (Vol. 3). BF

Skinner Foundation.

Skinner, B. F. (2014). Verbal behavior. BF Skinner Foundation.Skinner, B. F. (2015). Cumulative record: definitive edition (Vol. 4). BF Skinner Foundation.

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