skinner’s box experiment


skinner’s box experiment

Prior to the work of Skinner, instrumental learning was typically studied using a maze or a puzzle box. Learning in these settings is better suited to examiningdiscrete trials or episodes of behavior, instead of the continuous stream of behavior. The Skinner Box is an experimental environment that is better suited to examine the more natural flow of behavior. (The Skinner Box is also referred to as an operant conditioning chamber.)
A Skinner Box is a often small chamber that is used to conduct operant conditioning research with animals. Within the chamber, there is usually a lever (for rats) or a key (for pigeons) that an individual animal can operate to obtain a food or water within the chamber as a reinforcer. The chamber is connected to electronic equipment that records the animal’s lever pressing or key pecking, thus allowing for the precise quantification of behavior.

Skinner's box experiment
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Time Traveler for Skinner box

In the 1940s, psychologist B. F. Skinner put his daughter in a Plexiglas box he called the “Heir Conditioner.” His theory, which launched one of the longest-running debates in psychology, was that scientists could shape human behavior through controlled environments and rewards. Skinner conditioned rats to press levers and cats to play piano, and he’s reviled for trying to control humans through science. As the story goes, he was somehow connected to the Nazis, and his daughter Deborah, raised in the box, lost her mind at 31, sued him, then shot herself in a bowling alley.
But according to Lauren Slater, a psychologist and the author of Prozac Diary (1998), that story is mostly myth. With her new book, she hopes to set the record straight about Skinner and other experimental psychologists. In 10.