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Influence of Operant Behavior and Conditioning by Skinner

  • 08Pages
  • Published On: 18-11-2023
Influence of Operant Behavior and Conditioning by Skinner


The aim of this essay is to throw deeper insight on the study of the field of psychology that was developed by Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov in the late nineteenth century and has been furthered by B. F. Skinner. The notion that all activity in human and animal life can be traced back to a neural relation between arousal and reaction is one of its best known concepts. In many fields, this theory has been incredibly popular as it gives animals and humans a form of education that provides consistent response through the creation of connections between stimuli and response, even though the stimulus has not been specifically related to reaction previously. Moreover, the essay will flow with the subsections of historical contexts of the theory and its further emergence on psychological aspects and changing human behavior as well.



Historical Context of Skinner's concept of 'reinforcement'

The relationship between stimuli and response in humans was not necessarily a reaction, Skinner observed, as was the case for Pavlov's automatic reactions in dogs. Skinner found that in his human experiments, if an action is praised in a certain manner, it is probably replicated, although it is less possible that the behavior is punished in another way (Skinner, 2019). Humans and certain animals will learn that their actions results and then alter their behavior to prevent adverse outcomes and to obtain favorable incentives. On the other hand, the two distinct forms of reinforcement have been distinguished by Skinner, which are commonly positive and negative reinforcement. A constructive reinforces rewards the subject for displaying the desired behavior and an unpleasant reinforce is omitted until the subject displays his desired behavior (Iverson, 2016). A negative reinforcement example is a rule, which allows employees arriving late in the morning to go and meet with their supervisor. An employee who is normally late in the morning will make a difference in his conduct and thereby reduce the need for tough conversations with his boss. The two reinforces have the same ultimate result, even though they use different means. Skinner inferred from all of his behavioral findings in reaction to multiple forms of reinforces that incentives are more effective than penalties for actions (Skinner, 2019). In this context, it also contributes to a shared environment that is fun to all. Once again, this atmosphere of anticipatory incentives becomes an extra beneficial strengthening for those present. Punishment could deter the worst excesses of poor behavior efficiently, but it is not a particularly productive means of encouraging good conduct (DeSouza et al., 2020). The finding that reactions to stimuli do not always consist and cannot always tell what a person would consider to be attractive is a complication of this principle. So, even this concept of reinforcement does not work without any particular psychological aspects for a human nature.

Critical aspect of Skinner's approach to operant conditioning'

Skinner gave the technical term 'operating conditioning' to the mastered mechanism of relaxation and response, although it is also called 'instrumental conditioning.' Tincani et al (2020), stated that words are used to differentiate between learning patterns and unintended habits. In his later research, Skinner theorized that it is possible to change individuals’ actions by differing the types of stimuli and a person if he is subjected to in a well orchestrated manner.

On the contrary, Chomsky (2018), argued that it is unworkable to sustain a constant stream of primary enhancers, such as food or money. In order to accomplish this aim, it is important to remember that certain facets of the environment, including financial compensation program for well completion of work and fines for failure to carry out assignments, oral appreciation, acceptance and status for those activities that the group or entity finds acceptable, and critique or rejection of actions other than approved. Similarly, as influenced by DeSouza et al (2020), Skinner's work has had a great influence on education and much of his ideas have been translated into instructional and learning methods focused on the central concepts of recompense and retribution. With reference to that, feedback is the most commonly used strengthener to promote some activities and inhibit those in most schools. Teachers praise students in several ways if they are appropriately and helpfully conduct themselves when imposing a limited but well specified series of classroom guidelines that can have detrimental implications if they are violated (, 2020). The bulk of behavior control programmes contain some behavioral concepts, as is literally implied by the very word 'compatibility management.' On the other hand, Iverson (2016), further commented that Skinner proposed incentive schemes inhibited by a team for motivation. However; this may not always act as that tokens, e.g. stamps, stars, ticks, rankings or squad scores, could be used instead. When these abstract incentives are associated with the teacher's affection, smiles and praise, they are generalized strengthening team. For example, this can be correlated with tangible incentives such as treatments or rights, and students can be allowed to collect and trade tokens later on for actual rewards (Glaeser, & Van Quaquebeke, 2019). Hence, if the students do not value reward or think it is out of reach, the reward does not reinforce and may even foster resentment or reduced dedication by the student. Despite of the overall positive aspects, there have been pointed out deficiencies of the conduct of education where it lies in the way that it immediately highlights the need to understand them more closely. It was quite unexpected from the study that Skinner’s approach has major limitations where operant conditioning does not take cognitive factors in hand (Rickert, Skinner & Roeser, 2020). Simple principles are also form an extremely complicated basis for proposals. In addition, Apprentices that can properly add or divide but do not realize what it means, for example, can easily get confused if they are part of more complicated equations. However, certain limitations could have been addressed by using any pattern of behavioral change that can influence on the way a student feels or thinks, and this affects how they behave (Bouton &Balleine, 2019). Despite of that there can be negative consequences like negative reinforcement on learners’ state of mind and negative punishment. In other words, Skinner's closely watching approach can only be a partial description of human behavior. Therefore, this theory cannot describe especially human emotional and cognitive behavioral changes and experiences in –depth.

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Therefore, based on the above contradictions and understanding, it has been recognized that Skinner’s theory of Behaviorism is a noteworthy for its reliance on the application of empirical observational techniques in the first half of the 20th century, which had influenced the instructional philosophy. Skinner also established behavioral perception, as an approach of changing human behavior, as one of the most influential psychological study. This theory has emphasized the role of the atmosphere and the connections that occur in this environment between individuals and events eventually with time and emerged. The reason is that it worked for teaching rituals and basic resources for learners and knowledge development and psychology growth. However, it rarely applied in today’s organizations or any pace of work, as it lacks in emotional and cognitive behavioral changes.


Bouton, M. E., &Balleine, B. W. (2019). Prediction and control of operant behavior: What you see is not all there is. Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice, 19(2), 202.

Chomsky, N. (2018). BF Skinnerren Verbal Behavior liburuarenkritika: A Review of BF Skinner’s Verbal Behavior'". 1959. Language 35: 26-58.

DeSouza, A. A., Akers, J. S., & Fisher, W. W. (2017). Empirical application of Skinner’s Verbal behavior to interventions for children with autism: A review. The Analysis of verbal behavior, 33(2), 229-259.

Glaeser, D., & Van Quaquebeke, N. (2019). The Double-Edged Sword of Financial Incentive Schemes. In Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Change (pp. 205-219). Springer, Cham.

Iversen, I. H. (2016). The empirical background for Skinner’s basic arguments regarding selection by consequences. NorskTidsskrift for Atferdsanalyse, 43, 143-149.'s_Basic_Arguments_Regarding_Selection_by_Consequences/links/580a1b6e08aeef1bfee3d64c.pdf (2020). Retrieved from:

Rickert, N. P., Skinner, E. A., & Roeser, R. W. (2020). Development of a multidimensional, multi-informant measure of teacher mindfulness as experienced and expressed in the middle school classroom. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 44(1), 5-19.

Skinner, B. F. (2019). The behavior of organisms: An experimental analysis. BF Skinner Foundation.,+B.+F.+(2019).+The+behavior+of+organisms:+An+experimental+analysis.+BF+Skinner+Foundation.&ots=LmqrbnBBB3&sig=BHRoWnCK_R4KJVRVvBvYBYvO3WI&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Skinner%2C%20B.%20F.%20(2019).%20The%20behavior%20of%20organisms%3A%20An%20experimental%20analysis.%20BF%20Skinner%20Foundation.&f=false

Tincani, M., Miller, J., Lorah, E. R., &Nepo, K. (2020). Systematic Review of Verbal Operants in Speech Generating Device Research from Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior. Perspectives on Behavior Science, 1-27.

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