Skinners theory also included the different ways that this learning could be reinforced.
A reinforcer is a stimulus which, when it follows a response results in an increase in the response to reoccur. A reinforcer is similar to what is called a reward. Reinforcement is the process by which a reinforcer increases the probability of a response. (Glassman, pg121) From Thorndike the cats escaped with the reward. But Skinner distinguished a positive reinforcement, a negative reinforcement and a punishment, which is similar to the negative reinforcement. If a child is given a reward for eating all the vegetables on his plate at dinner, he is more likely to eat his vegetables in the future. It is easy to recognize that a reward is a positive reinforcer, and that the likelihood of him eating his vegetables will increase. When a response is followed immediately by a positive reinforce, the response becomes more likely.
A teenager is nagged at by a parent to clean up a messy bedroom. The nagging is unpleasant this is the negative reinforcer. When the teenager eventually cleans up the nagging stops. When the response from the teenager is not made, a negative reinforcement is required (the nagging). Punishment involves physical or mental distress. Another important aspect of Skinners work is concerned with the effects on behaviour of how frequently and how regularly reinforcement is presented.
This area of the experiment was identified as, five major schedules of reinforcement.Continuous reinforcement (CRF) is the first schedule of reinforcement. During an experiment with the rats and pigeons, Skinner rewarded or reinforced every single response. The pattern and rate of responding is low but steady. Fixed interval (FI) is the second schedule of reinforcement. A reinforcement was given every 30 seconds, provided that a response occurred at least once during that time.
There was a pause after each reward. Overall the response rate was fairly low.Variable interval (VI) is the third schedule of reinforcement. Reinforcement was given on average every 30 seconds but the interval varies from trial to trial. So the interval on any one occasion is unpredictable. Respond rate is very stable over long periods of time. Fixed ratio (FR) is the fourth schedule of reinforcement.
Reinforcement was given for a fixed number of responses, however long this may take. A reinforcement for every 10 responses. In this stage there is a pause after each reinforcements and then a very high responding rate leading up to the next reinforcement.
Variable ratio (VR) is the final stage of the reinforcement schedule. Reinforcement was given on average 10 responses, but the number varied from trial to trial. So the number of responses on any one occasion is unpredictable.
There is a very high and very steady response rate. The behaviourist approach emphasizes the study of observable responses and rejects attempts to study internal processes, like thinking. Behaviourists also, focus on learning as the primary factor in exploring changes in behaviour. Depending on the type of response, this involves either classical or operant condition. Behaviour depends on the environmental rather than genetic or internal factors, such as motivation or knowledge.
Among the numerous contribution of behaviourism are behaviour therapies. Behaviour therapy involves the use of operant or classic conditioning to change unwanted behaviour into something more desirable. Some of the major techniques are flooding, systematic desensitisation, aversion therapy and the economic token. Flooding is a form of treatment for phobias, in which there is significantly large volumes of exposure to the feared stimulus. Flooding is effective because there is no objective basis to the persons fear. In everyday life the phobic person would avoid those situations and so would have no chance to learn this. This main problem with the flooding is that it is deliberately designed to produce, very high levels of fear. It can therefore have a very disturbing effect on the person.
Systematic desensitisation was developed by Joseph Walps (1958). This involves the attempt to replace the fear with a new response, usually muscle relaxation. Clients are initially given special training in deep relaxation until they can rapidly gain muscle relaxation when they want. Aversion therapy is to eliminate undesired behaviours. In the case with alcoholics, they will take a drug to vomit immediately after sipping alcohol. Token economy rewards patients for socially acceptable behaviour. This has a down side to it because, token economy works because the environment is carefully structured so good behaviour is consistently rewarded and bad behaviour is not. The outside world is very different they will find it difficult to transfer what they have learned.
I think that Skinner is probably the most over rated psychologists of all time. Because, it is true that animal behaviour can be influenced in predictable ways by operant conditioning. However language and learning, human thinking and long-term planning and so on are fundamental to human psychology but they depend on very little on conditioning principles. Which is why I found Skinners approach very limited.
However the overall research that I investigated, I found very interesting and felt that I could relate this to present situations.