Give a brief outline of learning theorist Skinner's ideas.

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Known as the father of Operant Conditioning, B.F. Skinner 's theoretical foundations are the result of Skinner's studies on Thorndike's Law of Effect (1905). This law contended that there are specific reactions to specific stimuli, particularly seen in animals. Using this law, Skinner coined the term "operant conditioning" which entails that behavior can be manipulated, changed, or transformed through a specific set of procedures.

In Skinner's theory, the interventions that aid the conditioning of behavior come in three forms:

  • Neutral stimulus- an intervention, stimulus or strategy that does not impact behavior, hence, does not condition or change it. For example, unsolicited advice, boredom, lack of interest, or blank feedback does not change behavior in any way.
  • Positive reinforcers- consist on offering specific stimulus in aim of increasing a behavior. These reinforcers need to be modified as far as the rate at which is it given. Too much positive reinforcement may turn into neutral stimulus.
  • Negative reinforcers or punishment-this is the application of a very unattractive, painful, or disagreeable stimulus as a result of a behavior in aims to extinguish or diminish such behavior.

The basic gist of OC is that behavior is observable and can be predicted through the application of a stimulus, whether positive or negative. Behavior can be treated under a scientific perspective through experimentation. The reinforcers serve as the variable that will affect a control group. Skinner's theory is highly applicable in pedagogy, where the behaviors of students and their reaction toward what is learned is conditioned by teacher interventions.