BF Skinner Reinforcement Theory of Motivation | Operant Conditioning
What is Reinforcement Theory of Motivation
Psychology Frederick Boris Skinner (also called BF Skinner) was a behavioral psychologist who developed reinforcement theory.
Skinner’s Reinforcement Theory of Motivation essentially holds that behavior is a function of its consequence, meaning that people’s behaviors are largely dependent on the consequences they are receiving.
From his research, Skinner argued that psychologists should focus on the fact and restrict their research to only that can be seen, manipulated, and measured in the lab.
Skinner did not have a specific personality theory, and in explaining personality, he did not reference internal subjective states. He did not believe that unconscious influences, defense mechanisms, and other invisible driving forces have a place in scientific psychology.
However, Skinner does not deny these internal forces’ existence, but he does not need a look inside a person to explain their behavior. Because of this, he refers to human beings as empty organisms.
Another way he was different from other psychologists is his choice of experimental subjects. Although his ideas about behavior are applied to people, the research for his behavioral approach used rats and pigeons.
Skinner’s central idea is that consequences can control behavior, and to put it simply, the behavior is controlled by what follows that behavior or conditioning. There are two types of Behaviours or Conditioning;
Classical and Operant Conditioning
There are two distinguished types of behaviors and conditioning.
- Respondent/Classical Conditioning
- Operant Behaviors/Conditioning
Respondent /Classical Conditioning
What classical conditioning basically involves is the pairing of stimuli and the association that results between the two. Behavior that would normally be the result of one stimulus becomes the result of another one.
Respondent behavior involves a response made to or elicited by a specific stimulus.
Respondent/Classical Conditioning Examples
The most famous example of this is Pavlov’s dogs, where Ivan Pavlov trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell.
A reflexive action such as closing your eye when it is poked is an automatic, involuntary respondent behavior. The stimulus is applied, a poke on the eyeball, and the response occurs, closing the eyelid.
Difference Between Classical and Operant Conditioning Examples
|Classical Conditioning||Operant Conditioning|
|Developed by the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov.||Developed by B. F. Skinner, an American psychologist|
|Association of stimulus on involuntary automatic behaviors||Association of voluntary behaviors to reinforcement or punishment.|
|Unconditioned stimulus and unconditional response lead to conditioned stimulus and conditioned response.||Focuses on strengthening or weakening voluntary behaviors|
BF Skinner Reinforcement Theory of Motivation;
Operant Behavior/ Conditioning
BF Skinner expanded on Edward Thorndike’s work and developed operate conditioning, and its simplest form, operant conditioning, is learning by consequences.
Operant behavior can be defined as behavior admitted, spontaneously or voluntarily, that operates on the environment to change it.
Operant conditioning basically focuses on is a relationship between behavior and its consequences and how those consequences, in turn, influence the behavior.
Operant conditioning is the procedure by which a change in the consequences of your response will affect the rate at which the response occurs.
In short, specific consequences are associated with voluntary behavior. Skinner believed that most human and animal behavior is learned through this type of conditioning.
Skinner Box Experiment
The Skinner box is an operant conditioning apparatus that Skinner developed to explain operate behavior. Skinner used his Operant chamber, also known as a Skinner box, to experiment with rats and pigeons.
The box contains a lever inside that causes food pellets to drop into the box When it is pushed down.
A rat was placed in the Skinner box, where it walks around, checking out and feeling the environment. Eventually, the rat figures out to depress the lever bar, and the food pellet drops into the box.
The rat’s behavior changes due to the environment, changing with the food’s addition in the box. The food pellets are reinforcing the behavior of depressing the lever.
In this example, the food is the reinforcer; in depressing, the bar is the behavior.
Skinner described one’s voluntary behavior as an operant, and when we engage in this voluntary behavior, it accidentally leads to some consequence. This consequence can either reinforce behavior or punish behavior.
Reinforcement increases the desired behavior, while punishment decreases the desired behavior.
This is applicable in the workplace setting. Managerial actions affect the motivation of employees and largely have to do with reinforcement theory. There are different behaviors that managers can engage in to affect how a worker is motivated.
BF Skinner Reinforcement theory suggests that you can change someone’s behavior by using; reinforcement,
punishment, and extinction. Rewards are used to reinforce the behavior you want, and punishments are used to prevent the behavior you do not want. Extinction is a means to stop someone from performing a learned behavior.
Positive and Negative Reinforcement and Punishment
Skinner also realized that behavior could be affected by adding something or taking something away.
From a purely mathematical point of view, positive refers to the positive sign in math, which means to add something. Likewise, negative refers to taking something away. He classified reinforcement and punishment behaviors as follows;
- Positive Reinforcement
- Negative Reinforcement
- Positive Punishment
- Negative Punishment
BF Skinner Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a behavioral modification in which desirable behavior is praised and rewarded. The root word of reinforcement is reinforcing, which means to strengthen or increase. Thus, reinforcement increases the chances that a behavior will be repeated. It is also important to note that reinforcement occurs after a behavior.
Positive reinforcements, for example, praise, appreciation, a good mark grade trophy, money, promotion, or any other reward, can increase the possibility of the rewarded behaviors repetition.
The easiest responses, some rewards, like money, maybe time with friends, a new video game, even receiving praise like a good job, are all considered rewards.
Operant Conditioning Positive Reinforcement Examples
Positive Reinforcement Examples in Classroom
If a student gets positive verbal feedback and a good grade for his test, this reinforcement encourages the behavior’s performance to recur.
If the teacher doesn’t tell precisely what he expects, then the positive reinforcements could drive the behavior closer to the preferred.
When a student who is usually late to class gets positive feedback when he arrives on time, they become more punctual. Positive reinforcement motivates to get the anticipated reinforcement of required behavior.
BF Skinner Negative Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement occurs when a negative consequence is withheld if the behavior you desire is demonstrated, which will increase the probability that the behavior you are seeking will continue.
Negative reinforcement involves the strengthening of a response by removing an aversive stimulus, and a negative reinforcer is an aversive or noxious stimulus, the removal of which is rewarding.
Negative reinforcement means to take something away. Annoying or unpleasant nagging you keep hearing is an unpleasant consequence. To away the unpleasant consequence of nagging and you are happy, you act accordingly.
Negative reinforcement examples in the workplace
An example of negative reinforcement in the workplace; Negative reinforcement is when appropriate behavior is performed to avoid unwanted consequences. For example, a customer service representative who knows that they will be reprimanded for not properly greeting customers may avoid the consequences by professionally greeting each customer as they come into their store or department.
Another example of negative reinforcement in life; We use negative reinforcement when we give a hungry person a meal if he behaves in a certain manner. In this case, the meal is negative reinforcement because it eliminates the unpleasant state of hunger.
Negative Reinforcement Examples in the Classroom
An example of negative reinforcement in the classroom; if a student is always late to class and thus, gets negative verbal feedback and also always has to tidy up the classroom at the end of the day.
Punishment; Positive punishment and Negative punishment
Punishment occurs when you impose a negative consequence to reduce undesirable behavior. Punishment will decrease the tendency that a behavior will occur again. The main purpose of punishment is to weaken your response or decrease your behavior.
It involves applying an aversive stimulus following response to decreasing the likelihood that that response will occur.
Skinner states that the punishment issue is that it works immediately, but it does not give long-term results.
Positive punishment means something is being added in an effort to decrease a tendency that behavior will occur again.
Negative punishment means something is being taken away in an effort to decrease the chance that a behavior will occur again.
Positive punishment Example
Let’s imagine this scenario that you keep arriving late to your job. What is your boss or manager to do?
Positive punishment might be an option. The most obvious unpleasant consequences would be for your boss to sign you to work maybe a lousy shift or work with some unpleasant coworkers to decrease your behavior of arriving late to work.
Negative Punishment Example
In the case of negative punishment, we’re taking away or removing a pleasant consequence or removing something valued or desirable. This is punishment by removal.
Employee discounts are often pleasant consequences or perks of any job. Negative punishment, your boss can decide to temporarily suspend or completely take away your employee discount to decrease your behavior of arriving late to work.
Extinction is a means to stop a learned behavior. It attempts to extinguish a behavior by withholding the positive reinforcement that encouraged the behavior’s development.
Extinction Reinforcement Example in the Workplace
An example of extinction reinforcement in the workplace is that you manage a production facility that has had a hard time keeping up with orders for the past few months.
You used overtime pay as a positive reinforcement to bring workers in on weekends and to delay holidays. Now that you have the orders under control, you stop approving overtime. You can withdraw the overtime pay. Workers no longer come in on the weekends to work. Their learned behavior has been extinguished.
Another example of extinction reinforcement in the workplace is that if there is joke telling on the job, it may extinguish the behavior if it is ignored and not participated in.
Application of Operant Conditioning/ Behaviour
There are many applications of operant conditioning, and its techniques are often used in the workplace, schools, clinical settings, and even in homes. With this, specifically, behavior modification is used.
Behavior modification is a form of therapy that applies Skinner’s principles of reinforcement in order to accomplish desired behavioral changes.
These examples; spanking a child as punishment or rewarding an employee for doing great work.
There are four types of consequences /behaviors: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. All these consequences influence and shape behavior, and that’s what makes operate conditioning unique.
It’s this relationship that’s a reciprocal relationship between behavior and consequences. Consequences influence all these behaviors, and the consequences will influence the behavior.
Contrary to positive and negative reinforcement, the punishment could be undesired reinforcement or reinforce undesired behavior.
According to the theory, positive reinforcement is a much better motivational technique than punishment because punishment tries to stop undesirable behavior and does not offer an alternative behavior. Creates bad feelings, negative attitudes toward the activity, and the person who gives the punishment suppresses behavior but does not permanently eliminate it.
Once certain behavior has been conditioned through repetitive reinforcement, eliminating the reinforcement will decline the motivation to perform that behavior. Therefore, it is better not to give a reward every time.
Reinforcement in the workplace usually takes place on a partial or regular reinforcement schedule. Win rewards are not given for every response.
The reinforcement theory must include the following;
- The reward must meet someone’s needs.
- Expectations must be applied equitably and must be consistent.
- The desired behavior must be clear and realistic, but the issue remains which reinforcements air suitable and for which person.
Criticism of BF Skinner Reinforcement Theory of Motivation
Some criticism of Reinforcement Theory of Motivation by BF Skinner includes the following;
- The reinforcement theory of motivation ignores the inner feelings and drives of individuals.
- The reinforcement theory of motivation focuses totally on what happens to an individual when he takes some action. Thus, according to Skinner, the organization’s external environment must be designed effectively and positively to motivate the employee.
- The theory is a strong tool for analyzing the controlling mechanism for an individual’s behavior. However, it does not focus on the causes of an individual’s behavior.
Difference Between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning Examples