PSY 331 Psychology Of Learning WK1-D2


Prior to engaging in this discussion, read the Introduction and Chapter One in your required e-book, watch the B.F. Skinner – Operant Conditioning and Free Will (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. video, and review the Instructor Guidance.


  • Summarize the following constructs that the behaviorist movement promotes:
    • Associative learning
    • Connectionism, including the laws of learning
    • Conditioning
      • Classical
      • Operant
    • Reflect on your own experiences in the workplace or in  organizational settings (school, church, volunteer sites). What is an  example of applied behaviorism that you have experienced in one of these  settings?
    • Based on your e-book commentary, why do you think the reader is encouraged to think skeptically about the content included?
    • Are there potential concerns with associating learning behaviors with theory based only on anti-mentalism?
    • What truths can be disseminated from the historic evolution of the behaviorist framework?The Foundations of Behaviorism

      Learning Objectives

      After reading this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

      · Explain the controversial history and arguments of behaviorism.

      · Describe associative learning.

      · Explain connectionism and the law of effect.

      · Compare and contrast classical and operant conditioning.

      · Identify examples of ratio and interval schedules.

      · Discuss settings where behaviorism, in the area of learning, is applied.


      When you were a child, were you ever

      · sent to your room for a bad behavior, a consequence that continued to occur until you changed your behavior?

      · slapped on the hand for touching something that you were not supposed to touch?

      · yelled at if you walked into the street without first looking for cars?

      · given an allowance when you completed your chores?

      · allowed to go on dates but only if you were home by curfew?

      · given a sticker or badge for an assignment when you did well?

      All of these examples could be categorized as behaviorist techniques for reinforcing learning.

      A child looking guilty as he draws on a white wall. A parent stands near the child with her hands on her hips.

      Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Thinkstock

      Making mistakes is part of the learning process. It allows people to modify behavior or thought processes in order to develop knowledge or skills.

      Learning can refer to the process of developing knowledge or a skill through instruction or study or the process of modifying behavior through experience. Understanding how learning is studied is an important step if you want to successfully apply psychological methods to your own learning or to that of others, whether in a classroom, in the workplace, or even in your role as a parent or grandparent. It is also important to understand that theories have evolved over time and that inaccuracies often exist in the literature that presents behavior and learning studies (Abramson, 2013). Applications of technology and methodological approaches continue to develop researchers’ awareness of possible inaccuracies and alternate approaches.

      Your journey to a better understanding of learning begins with behaviorism. This theoretical foundation, which was first discussed in this book’s introduction, argues that learning has successfully occurred when the appropriate behavior is observed (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). However, behaviorism is an intricate theory, and its approach to learning cannot be generalized so easily. There are many perspectives related to behaviorism, and such variability makes it critical that you understand behaviorism’s theoretical foundation in more depth. Although new methods are often used in the 21st century, behaviorism still offers the field of learning many relevant strategies for successful learning, educating, and counseling today (Abramson, 2013).

      In this chapter, we will first discuss the history of behaviorism, as well as its evolution in the scope of learning theory. In addition, the chapter will cover behaviorism’s foundational ideas, including connectionism, the law of effect, principles of conditioning, and modeling and shaping, and explain how behaviorism has been applied within the domains of marketing and education.


      1.1 The Evolution of Behaviorism to Behavior Analysis

      Behaviorism was initially based on the premise that observable environmental variables are the basis of behaviors (Hilgard, 1956; Pierce & Cheney, 2004). The theory itself has numerous frameworks, some of which you read about in section i.2, and continues to evolve today.

      The excerpts in this section are from Watrin and Darwich (2012). This article reflects upon the evolution of behaviorism. The attention placed on the multitude of beliefs about behaviorism sets the standard for approaching this area of learning psychology with skeptical thought and critical considerations. Watrin and Darwich (2012) introduce J. B. Watson (1913), who redefined psychology as “a purely objective experimental branch of natural science” (p. 158), proposing the “prediction and control of behavior” as its goal, and invite us to follow the path of self-identified behaviorists who continued to reinvent how and what behaviorism is and how it should be applied. With explicit candor, these authors will help you better understand exactly why this framework is often misunderstood and difficult to clearly explain. They also provide you with a foundation that will help you better understand the advances and new reflections that continue to be explored.

      Excerpts from “On Behaviorism in the Cognitive Revolution: Myth and Reactions”

      By J. P. Watrin and R. Darwich

      In the course of history, there is a clear difficulty to define psychology. For a long time, it was treated as the study of mind or human psyche. Some authors, though, saw the emergence of behaviorism as a revolution in psychological science (e.g., Gardner, 1985; Moore, 1999). Starting with J. B. Watson (1878–1958), the behaviorist school flourished in the beginning of the 20th century. It was a remarkable rupture in the history of psychology, once it put the mind aside of scientific inquiry. From then on, behaviorism began a tradition of study of behavior, comprising several—and sometimes even conflicting—theoretical systems (Moore, 1999). In that context, behavior analysis emerged as one of the behavioristic approaches, having been developed from the works of B. F. Skinner (1904–1990). With an emphasis on operant behavior and an antimentalistic position [which rejects the mind as the cause of behavior], it became a forefront system of behaviorism during the 1950s. [. . .]

      From Behaviorism to Behavior Analysis

      Behavior analysis constitutes a field and a psychological system devoted to the study of behavior, here defined in terms of functional relations between behavioral and environmental events (Catania, 1998). As a field, behavior analysis has today three fundamental domains: (a) the experimental analysis of behavior, a basic science devoted to empirical research on behavioral processes, especially in the laboratory; (b) applied behavior analysis, a technological domain dedicated to apply behavior-analytic knowledge to solve practical problems; and (c) the conceptual analysis of behavior, which performs theoretical reflections about the subject matter and methods of investigation (Moore, 1999; see also Moore & Cooper, 2003). Those domains are interrelated and based in radical behaviorism, a philosophy of science that lays the foundations of behavior analysis.

      The history of the field as a whole has its roots in the behaviorist school. In 1913, Watson published the article “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It.” Attacking the study of consciousness, Watson (1913) redefined psychology as “a purely objective experimental branch of natural science” (p. 158), proposing the “prediction and control of behavior” as its goal. That drastic movement would greatly contribute to the beginning of a new tradition, whose name seems to have been created by Watson himself: “behaviorism” (Schneider & Morris, 1987).

      Psychologist B. F. Skinner in a laboratory conducting an experiment with a rat.

      Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

      Psychologist B. F. Skinner’s experiments showed that behavior could be related to a stimulus and did not have to be only an occurrence inside an organism. One of Skinner’s famous experiments included a rat pressing a lever to then be rewarded with food.

      In the following decades, several psychologists would be identified as behaviorists. Names such as Clark Hull (1884–1952) and Edward Tolman (1886–1959) became associated with the behaviorist movement, once they developed their own explanatory models of behavior (e.g., Hull, 1943; Tolman, 1932). New forms of behaviorism were thus being shaped and were sometimes at odds with those that already existed (Moore, 1999). In the 1930s, the contributions of Skinner established his place among those developments. Conceiving behavior as a lawful process, Skinner’s experimental works on reflexes led him to new concepts and methods of investigation (see Iversen, 1992). Reflex—and, subsequently, all behavior—was no longer something that happened inside the organism; rather, it was seen as a relation in which a response is defined in function of a stimulus and vice versa (Skinner, 1931). [. . .] In 1938, Skinner published The Behavior of Organisms, in which he summarized many of his positions and refined the concept of operant behavior. Skinnerian behaviorism (see section i.2) was acquiring its shape. Its first developments laid the fundamental concepts and methods of behavior analysis. Because they relied on basic research, they were also the first steps of the experimental analysis of behavior.

      In the 1940s, the first introductory course based in Skinner’s psychology and the first conference on experimental analysis of behavior took place (Keller & Schoenfeld, 1949; Michael, 1980). In 1945, Skinner wrote The Operational Analysis of Psychological Terms, in which, for the first time in print, he defined his thought as “radical behaviorism” (Skinner, 1945, p. 294; see also Schneider & Morris, 1987). The term would designate a philosophy that, on one hand, defines private events (e.g., thinking, feelings) as behavior and, therefore, as a legitimate subject matter of a behavioral analysis, but on the other hand attacks explanatory mentalism, the explanation of behavior by mental events (cf. Skinner, 1945, 1974). Private events usually refer to a mental concept, but they are behavior and, as such, cannot cause other behavior. That antimentalism would become a central feature of radical behaviorism. [. . .]

      As the prominence of Skinner and his work began to rise and the foundations for applied behavior analysis were laid (Morris, Smith, & Altus, 2005), Skinner would become central to the development of behavior analysis. [. . .] Thus, behavior analysis constituted itself by the gradual establishment of its domains, being consolidated as a field in the late 1970s. Although Skinner became synonymous with behavior analysis, the field exceeded its pioneer. Behavior analysis took on a life of its own. Other people took part in the spreading of the field, such as Fred Keller (1899–1996), Charles Ferster (1922–1981), William Schoenfeld (1915–1996), and Murray Sidman (1923–). They disseminated its knowledge, just as they developed new concepts and methods (e.g., Sidman & Tailby, 1982). Skinner, however, remained as the field’s main spokesman. Schultz and Schultz (2004), for instance, asserted that, “despite . . . criticisms, Skinner remained the uncontested champion of behavioral psychology from the 1950s to the 1980s. During this period, American psychology was shaped more by his work than by the ideas of any other psychologist” (p. 344). [. . .]

      The Generic (and Misrepresented) Nature of Behaviorism

      [. . .] Behaviorism became a host of different and conflicting systems, grouped under a single label, as if they all shared the same position. Being vaguely defined, behaviorism is frequently treated as a homogeneous school, as a linear tradition. The term behaviorism, however, refers to a variety of conflicting positions (Leigland, 2003; but see also Moore, 1999). Indeed, after Watson’s (1913) first use, many theories related to the study of behavior were taken as “behaviorists.” Since the term began to be largely used, its ambiguity was soon recognized, seeing that there was no single enterprise called “behaviorism” (e.g., Hunter, 1922; Spence, 1948; Williams, 1931). Woodworth (1924) summarized the problem:

      If I am asked whether I am a behaviorist, I have to reply that I do not know, and do not much care. If I am, it is because I believe in the several projects put forward by behaviorists. If I am not, it is partly because I also believe in other projects which behaviorists seem to avoid, and partly because I cannot see any one big thing, to be called “behaviorism.” (p. 264)

      Spence (1948) also noted that the term was mostly used when someone defines his or her oppositions to an effective (or alleged) behaviorism. Even so, later developments were identified with “behaviorism,” such as behavior analysis itself. Therefore, the term would still designate a very heterogeneous set of positions. Its indiscriminate use, on the other hand, overlooks the historical complexity and diversity of the behaviorist school.

      Moreover, references to a generic behaviorism set biases in the analysis of behavioristic systems. When behaviorism is vaguely defined, it is easier to misrepresent any system by attributing features of other positions to it. Properties of particular systems are ascribed to all. Pinker (1999), for example, says the following:

      Skinner and other behaviorists insisted that all talk about mental events was sterile speculation; only stimulus–response connection could be studied in the lab and the field. Exactly the opposite turned out to be true. Before computational ideas were imported in the 1950s and 1960s by Newell and Simon and the psychologists George Miller and Donald Broadbent, psychology was dull, dull, dull. (p. 84)

      [. . .] In spite of the prior disputable use of the word behaviorism, the conventional historiography seems to have taken advantage of the term’s ambiguity to legitimate the idea of a revolution. A generic behaviorism was, then, presented, underlying fallacious arguments. This ambiguous treatment is dangerous for behavior analysis and modern behaviorism, because it creates and strengthens academic folklore (see also Todd & Morris, 1992). Its deceptive character gives rise to misrepresentations. [. . .]

      Source: Watrin, J. P., & Darwich, R. (2012). On behaviorism in the cognitive revolution: Myth and reactions. Review of General Psychology, 16(3), 269–282. Copyright © 2012, American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission.

      Understanding the history of a theoretical framework can help us better understand the developments that followed. In this case, behaviorism gave rise to many subset groups that believed that learning was a behavior and that behavior was observable—yet differed in the degree to which they held to these beliefs. As the article’s authors observed, the word behaviorism can often be used as a general grouping for the multiple researchers aligned with this theory. As a lifelong learner, you may find that further questioning this ambiguity in your own studies will help substantiate your understanding of this important area of psychology.

      1.2 Theory of Connectionism and the Laws of Learning

      Edward Thorndike’s theory of connectionism and the laws of learning were two concepts that would emerge as behaviorism matured. The theory of connectionism , also known as the synaptic theory of learning, posits that learning occurs through the habitual associations, or connections, made between stimuli and responses. Examples of behavioral associations include eating because we are hungry and sleeping because we are tired. The laws of learning explain how people learn best through these associations. As just one example, the law of effect asserts that learning is strengthened when it is associated with a positive feeling. As Sandiford (1942) explains in the following excerpts, the theory of connectionism and the laws of learning helped build a more developed understanding of learning and contributed to our more modern applications of today.

      Conceptual model of the brain with illuminated dots and connectors depicting brain activity.


      A central theory of connectionism is that learning is conducted through stimuli and responses.

      Before you begin reading, it is important to understand the importance of what is known as “association doctrine” to Thorndike’s research. Although Thorndike did not introduce his initial three laws of learning until the early 20th century (Weibell, 2011), ideas about behavioral associations began to take shape more than 2,000 years ago. Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) wrote in his major work on ethics, “For we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace.” However, his ideas about associations are most clearly seen in the following passage:

      When, therefore, we accomplish an act of reminiscence, we pass through a certain series of precursive movements, until we arrive at a movement on which the one we are in quest of is habitually consequent. Hence, too, it is that we hunt through the mental train, excogitating from the present or some other, and from similar or contrary or coadjacent. Through this process reminiscence takes place. For the movements are, in these cases, sometimes at the same time, sometimes parts of the same whole, so that the subsequent movement is already more than half accomplished. (Aristotle, ca. 350 BCE/1930, para. XX)

      Association doctrine can be explained as the linking of physiological and psychological processes. Important to understanding the points of reference in the excerpts from Sandiford (1942) is that Thorndike’s beliefs about learning were somewhat founded on Alexander Bain’s beliefs about psychology that suggested all knowledge is based on physical sensations (not thoughts or ideas) (Bain, 1873). Bain (1818–1903) founded the academic journal called Mind, the first journal of psychology and analytical philosophy. He postulated an “associationist treatment of higher mental processes” (Wade, 2001, p. 781).

      Excerpts from “Connectionism: Its Origin and Major Features”

      By P. Sandiford

      Features of Connectionism

      The following outline gives the main distinguishing features of connectionism:

      1. Connectionism is an outgrowth of the association doctrine, especially as propounded by Alexander Bain. Thorndike was a pupil of William James, some of whose teachings were derived from Bain and the British associationists. Connectionism, therefore, through associationism, has its roots deep in the psychological past.

      2. Connectionism is a theory of learning, but as learning is many-sided, connectionism almost becomes a system of psychology. It is as a theory of learning, however, that it must stand or fall.

      3. Connectionism has an evolutionary bearing in that it links human behavior to that of the lower animals. Thorndike’s first experiments were with chicks, fish, cats, and, later, with monkeys. From his animal experiments he derived his famous laws of learning.

      4. Connectionism boldly states that learning is connecting. The connections presumably have their physical basis in the nervous system, where the connections between neuron and neuron explain learning. Hence, connectionism is also known as the synaptic theory of learning.

      5. Connectionism is atomistic rather than holistic or organismic, since it stresses the analysis of behavior in order to discover the elements that are connected or bonded together. The sum total of a man’s life can be described by a list of all the situations he has encountered and the responses he has made to them. [. . .]

      6. The connectionist principle of associative shifting (which suggests that if a response to a stimulus is sustained even if the stimulus is gradually changed, the same response will be likely in a new situation) has relationships with Pavlovian conditioning, which Thorndike regards as a special case of associative learning.

      7. Connectionism has also some affinities with Watsonian behaviorism, which suggested that introspection was not observable and thus not scientific, stressing the mechanistic aspects of behavior. Neither one finds it necessary to evoke a soul in order to explain behavior. Connectionism breaks with behaviorism in regard to the stress it places on the hereditary equipment of the behaving organism.

      8. Some connections are more natural than others. We grow into reflexes and instincts without very much stimulation from the environment except food and air. In other words, we mature into reflexes and instincts, but we have to practice or exercise in order to learn our habits. These hereditary patterns of behavior (reflexes and instincts) form the groundwork of learning. Most acquired connections are based on them and, indeed, grow out of them. Even such complex bonds as those which represent capacities (music, mathematics, languages, and the like) have a hereditary basis.

      9. According to connectionism those things we call intellect and intelligence are quantitative rather than qualitative. A person’s intellect is the sum total of the bonds (associations) he has formed. The greater the number of bonds he has formed, the higher is his intelligence.

      10. [. . .] Connectionism, above all other theories of learning, seems to be one that the classroom teacher can appreciate and apply. While the statistics which summarize the experiments have been decried as the products of a mechanistic conception of behavior, nevertheless they have done more to make education a science than all the theorizing of the past 2,000 years.

      [. . .] Thorndike was such a voluminous writer that it is difficult to summarize his position on any single question, or, indeed, to pin him down to a specific position. In order to remove any doubt the reader may have on the matter, the following recent statement of Thorndike’s position is given:

      A man’s life would be described by a list of all the situations which he encountered and the responses which he made to them, including among the latter every detail of his sensations, percepts, memories, mental images, ideas, judgments, emotions, desires, choices, and other so-called mental facts.

      [. . .] A man’s nature at any given stage would be expressed by a list of the responses (Rs) which he would make to whatever situations or state of affairs (Ss) could happen to him, somewhat as the nature of a molecule of sugar might be expressed by a list of all the reactions that would take place between it and every substance which it might encounter.

      There would be one important difference, however. [. . .] In human behavior our ignorance often requires the acknowledgment of the principle of multiple response or varied reaction to the same S by a person who is, so far as we can tell, the same person. (See Figure 1.1 for a specific example.) [. . .]

      If John Doe were really the same person in every particular way on 100 occasions he would always respond to S in one same way at each of its 100 occurrences, but he will not be. Even when we can detect no differences in him there will be subtle variation in metabolism, blood supply, etc. [. . .]

      Figure 1.1: Example of possible reactions to a stimulus

      Psychologist Edward Thorndike proposed that humans have varied responses to the same incident or stimulus. However, he acknowledged that there are hereditary patterns of behavior such as reflexes.

      Figure uses an example scenario to illustrate the variability of a stimulus (S) and response (R) connection. In this example, “S” is a stranger yelling at a man, and three different “Rs” are shown: The man smiles at the stranger and then walks away, the man reacts physically by yelling at and hitting the stranger, and the man yells back at the stranger and then storms away.

      © Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

      The Associationistic Background

      Ideas related to associationism date back to Aristotle, although his view differed much from our current understanding (Sandiford, 1942). Hence, there is a large gap in associationism’s history. Table 1.1 is adapted from the writing of Sandiford (1942), and can help put into perspective the maturation of the ideas connected with associationism. Each theorist brought additional perspectives to this model for learning, and although Table 1.1 provides only a broad overview, the timeline demonstrates how the perspectives changed as time moved forward.

      Table 1.1: Overview of associationistic milestones

      Theorists Milestones

      (384–322 BCE)

      · Introduced the ideology of associations.

      · Suggested that we could not perceive two sensations as one—that they would combine or fuse into one.

      Thomas Hobbes


      · Suggested sequences of thought could be casual and illogical, as in dreams, or orderly and regulated as by some design.

      · Suggested that hunger, sex, and thirst are physiological needs.

      John Locke


      · Suggested “association of ideas”: Representations arise in consciousness.
      David Hartley


      · Suggested that sensation (pleasure vs. pain) was generated by wave vibrations in the nerves.
      David Hume


      · Noted that the associations in cause and effect are affected when additional objects are introduced.
      James Mill


      · Advanced associationism to include more complex emotional states within the pain vs. pleasure sensation model.
      Thomas Brown


      · Suggested nine secondary laws that strengthened Aristotle’s laws of association.

      · Understood association as an active process of an active, holistic mind.

      Alexander Bain


      · Suggested trial-and-error learning, reflexes, and instincts as the bases of habits, individual differences, and the pleasure-pain principle in learning.
      Edward Thorndike


      · Suggested the theory of connectionism.

      · Suggested laws of learning.

      Adapted from “Connectionism: Its Origin and Major Features” by P. Sandiford, in N. B. Henry (Ed.), The Forty-First Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education: Part II, The Psychology of Learning (pp. 102–108), 1942. Blackwell Publishing. © National Society for the Study of Education. Adapted with permission.

      Other Backgrounds of Connectionism

      If Thorndike be regarded as the king-pin of connectionism, then three main streams of influence may be found in his work. The first, that of associationism, has already been traced. Bain influenced Thorndike’s teaching both directly and through William James. [. . .]

      For experimentation on the learning ability of animals, new apparatus, new devices, new methods had to be invented. Thorndike introduced the maze, the puzzle box, and the signal or choice reaction experiment, all of which have become standard equipment in animal psychology and have been employed in thousands of studies since that day. Figure 1.2 provides an illustration of a puzzle box.

      Figure 1.2: Thorndike’s puzzle box

      In Thorndike’s design, a dish of food was placed outside of the box, visible through the slats in the box. Thorndike found that animal subjects placed in the box would eventually locate the release apparatus, and the time before the activation of this response was shorter with each subsequent trial.

      A drawing of a puzzle box. The box is rectangular, solid at both of the short ends, but with a slatted side making up one of the long ends. A square-shaped door has been positioned in the slatted side. A long, thin chain attaches to the front of this door. Two thin slats hold the door in place. On top of the box, a square of mesh lies in the center. A system of ropes and hooks has been devised, leading to two pins that hold the door in place. Another chain hangs down inside the box.

      Adapted from Animal Intelligence (p. 30), by E. L. Thorndike, 1911, New York, NY: Macmillan.

      Thorndike’s Animal Intelligence, completed in 1898 as his doctoral dissertation, not only was the starting point of animal psychology as a science, but also went far toward establishing stimulus-response as the cornerstone of psychology. It is also the source of the famous laws of learning. [. . .]

      The Laws of Learning

      Probably the best known of the contributions that connectionism has made to educational theory and practice are the so-called laws of learning. They are not absolute laws, but rather are they to be regarded simply as comprehensive formulations of the rules which learning obeys.

      The laws usually quoted are those given in Vol. II of Thorndike’s Educational Psychology: The Psychology of Learning (1913). These include the three major laws: effectexercise or frequency, and readiness. [. . .] These laws grew out of the experiments with animals, coupled with such influences as the writings of Bain, Romanes, Lloyd Morgan, Wilhelm Wundt, and others, and have been modified by further experiments in which human beings acted as the subjects (Thorndike, 1932). New elements injected into the laws of learning are belongingnessimpressivenesspolarityidentifiabilityavailability, and mental system. This shows clearly enough that the laws are not to be regarded as a closed system, complete from the start, but merely as tentative summaries of our knowledge of the way in which learning takes place. They will be discarded or modified whenever experiments disclose that such is necessary or desirable.

      The Law of Effect

      [. . .] A modifiable bond is strengthened or weakened as satisfaction or annoyance attends its exercise. With chickens and cats, Thorndike had used as motivating agents in their behavior such original satisfiers as food and release from confinement for the hungry cat, company for the lonely chicken, and so forth. These acted as rewards for certain actions which became stamped in and learned. Thorndike really took the law of effect for granted at first, as so many before him had done. Gradually, however, it became one of his most important principles of education. [. . .]

      In propounding the law of effect, Thorndike thought that the two effects—satisfiers and annoyers—were about equally potent, the one in stamping in the connection, the other in stamping it out. If a preference was indicated it was toward the side of rewards, although he explicitly asserted that rewards or satisfiers following responses increased the likelihood of repetitions of the connections so rewarded, while punishments decreased the likelihood of recurrence of the punished connection. [. . .]

      The manner in which the confirming reaction develops and operates is as follows: The confirming reaction is at first an aftereffect of the S → R situation (where S is a stimulus and R is a response), thus:

      S → R → Confirming Reaction

      Afterwards it functions as a force connecting and binding S to R, thus:

      S → Confirming Reaction → R

      The confirming action is independent of a pleasurable result, since pain may also set it in action provided it is close enough to the satisfier in the succession of connections. However, it must not be thought that the effect of pain or the influence of a punishment, which is an annoying aftereffect, is exactly the opposite of the effect or influence of a reward upon the bond to which it belongs and of which it is the aftereffect.

      It does not directly, invariably, and inevitably weaken the mental connection. The influence of reward or punishment is thus seen to depend upon what it leads the person to do. The reward tends to arouse the confirming reaction and so cause the continuance or repetition of the connection. Punishment does not necessarily lead to the arousal of a tendency to discontinue the punished connection or to repeat it less often, nor does it necessarily stimulate a connection of an opposite kind. It arouses whatever original behavior or past experience has linked to that particular annoying aftereffect in those particular circumstances. This may be to run away, to scream, or to perform other useless acts. Punishments, compared with rewards, are very unreliable forces in learning. Rewards are dependable because they arouse confirming reactions.

      Thorndike is inclined to believe that the confirming reaction is a reaction of the neurons themselves. It is a neuronic force of reinforcement of the original response or it is the aftereffect of the total situation response (Thorndike, 1933, 1940). [. . .]

      The Law of Exercise or Frequency

      This law, like the law of effect, was at first almost taken for granted by Thorndike. Does not “practice make perfect”? Yet experience shows that exercise does not always lead to perfection. Practice in sitting on a bent pin or in poking the fire with the finger never leads to perfection in the art. The law of effect has to be invoked to explain why practice does not necessarily and invariably lead to improvement. Pleasurable reactions are stamped in; painful ones are stamped out. In terms of connectionism, repetition tends to make the bond permanent. [. . .]

      The law of exercise or frequency has two parts, use and disuse. The law of use is stated: When a modifiable connection is made between a situation and a response, that connection’s strength is, other things being equal, increased. The law of disuse runs: When a modifiable connection is not made between a situation and a response over a length of time, that connection’s strength is decreased. The phrase “other things being equal” refers mostly to the effect, the satisfyingness or annoyingness of the situation. In other words, the more you are able to do or apply something to differing contexts, the strength of the connection (what has been learned) increases. When the concept cannot be used in varying situations, reducing its usability, the strength of what has been learned decreases.

      A child writing on a notepad.


      Learning how to write and using that skill in different situations over the course of someone’s life is an example of the law of exercise or frequency.

      Watson, the behaviorist, claims that frequency and recency explain learning and that it is unnecessary to invoke the law of effect. The successful action in maze learning, for example, must occur in every series; therefore, the successful action is learned mainly through frequency. Apparently, Watson did not realize that unsuccessful actions within the maze were often repeated more frequently than the final and successful one. Yet it is the successful one that is finally stamped in (Watson, 1914). [. . .]

      The repetition of a situation, while tending to make a reaction somewhat stereotyped, in and of itself, is unproductive for learning. It causes no adaptive changes and has no useful selective power. Repetition of a connection, that is, the situation and its particular response, results in a real though somewhat small strengthening influence. Mere repetition of a connection causes learning, but the learning is slow. For example, if a child is taught to sit in his or her seat after entering the room, but does not understand why or its applicability, the child will sit but has not necessarily learned the reasons for performing this behavior. If the child learns that when entering a classroom, it is important to sit as a procedure that ensures positive outcomes in the learning environment (such as rewards) the child will be more apt to apply this in other settings as well.

      Repetition of a “connection with belonging” (that is, the procedure that is applied “fits” the situation) increases the likelihood of learned adaption to perform the behavior, even when the rewards may be concealed or disguised. Belongingness is difficult to describe but easy to illustrate. For example, the words of a sentence belong together in a way that the terminal word of one sentence and the initial word of the next do not. An additional example might include a child eating off a plate instead of eating off the table. The behavior makes logical sense to the individual. [. . .]

      The Law of Readiness

      Briefly the law of readiness may be stated: When a bond is ready to act, to act gives satisfaction and not to act gives annoyance. When a bond which is not ready to act is made to act, annoyance is caused. Examples of a bond might include starting an exercise program, asking for someone’s hand in marriage, or starting a new career. If a person is not ready to begin exercising, marry, or start a new career, he or she will likely feel annoyed by any pressure to do so. [. . .]

      Modifications and Additions to the Laws of Learning

      Thorndike’s later experiments on learning, using human beings as subjects, led to a modification of the laws of exercise and effect. Numerous additions and modifications were also made and new terms—belongingnessimpressivenessvividnesspolarityidentifiabilityavailability, and mental systems—found their way into the vocabulary of connectionism.

      1. Belongingness: A factor of great importance in the learning process.

      Example: Various words of a sentence fit or belong together; a sequence of numbers may belong together just because they are all numbers and not anything else, but some number sequences may possess more belongingness than others. Thus 2, 4, 8, 16, etc., exhibit more belongingness than 1, 3, 4, 2, 5, 11, 13, 15.

      2. Impressiveness: The strength or intensity of a stimulus or a situation.

      Example: Loud sounds are considered stronger and more impressive than less intense ones. Stimuli attended to, that is, in the focus of consciousness, are more impressive than marginal elements.

      3. Vividness: The recognizability of a word (Miller & Dost, 1964).

      Example: In some experiments, using word-number paired associates such as dinner 26basal 83divide 37kiss 63, the number of correct number associations with kiss and dinner, both impressive words, is larger than the number of associations made with basal and divide, both weak words.

      4. Polarity: The tendency for stimulus-response sequences to function more readily in the order they were practiced than in the opposite order.

      Example: Using foreign and vernacular phrases such as raison d’êtreohne Hast, ohne Ras exeunt omnesfacile descemusobiter dicta, etc., it was shown that the ends could be supplied when the beginnings were given, more readily than the beginnings could be given when the ends were supplied; the first half evokes the second half more often than the second evokes the first.

      5. Identifiability: If the connection can be easily identified it is easily learned.

      Example: Some concepts such as times, numbers, weights, colors, mass, density, etc., have to be analyzed out and made identifiable before they can be profitably used by us.

      6. Availability: The accessibility of the response.

      Example: When something is easier to attain, it makes the response to it more easily assessable.

      7. Mental systems: The habituation; limited physiological or emotional response to a frequently repeated stimulus (one’s habit).

      Example: If in paper and pencil association experiments, the stimulus word dear evoked the response sir, this would be regarded as a simple habit; but if it evoked fear, some mental system must be at work.

      [. . .] These modifications and additions to the laws of learning do not destroy the main fabric of the connectionist doctrine. Indeed, they illustrate one important feature of connectionism, namely, the willingness of its supporters to modify their teachings and beliefs when experimental findings are not in harmony with them. [. . .]

      Source: Sandiford, P. (1942). Connectionism: Its origin and major features. In N. B. Henry (Ed.), The forty-first yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education: Part II, The psychology of learning (pp. 97–140). Blackwell Publishing. © National Society for the Study of Education.

      The theory of connectionism and laws of learning present clear attributes and ideas about learning behavior. Since their introduction in the early 1900s, Thorndike’s insightful suggestions, based on previous research, have left their mark on research about learning and continue to pose implications about how we learn. As you learn about other areas where behaviorism is applied in the learning domain, continue to consider how each was derived and how they have influenced the more modern theories we will discuss in future chapters.


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      1.3 Principles of Conditioning

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      1.3 Principles of Conditioning

      Conditioning and learning have been core topics in psychology since the turn of the 20th century and are aligned with the transformation of associative learning concepts. Therefore, familiarity with this area of learning is critical to an advanced education in psychology, as well as a more developed understanding of behaviorism and its evolution. For this section of the chapter, we will discuss conditioning. Section 1.4 will explore how conditioning is then applied in the field of learning. There are two types of conditioning: classical and operant. Though both types have an associative property, there are also clear differences between the two. Classical conditioning involves repeatedly pairing two stimuli so that eventually one of the stimuli prompts an involuntary response that previously the other caused on its own. Think of the classic example of Pavlov’s dog: Repeatedly pairing food with a tone eventually caused, or conditioned, the dog to salivate at the tone alone.

      In contrast, operant conditioning (also referred to as instrumental conditioning or Skinnerian conditioning) introduces consequences to the associative relationship between stimuli and responses. Rather than using different stimuli to provoke the same, involuntary response, different stimuli are used to prompt or support the desired, voluntary response, which may involve the confirmation or discouragement of a behavior. In Figure 1.3, for example, two types of reinforcement (positive and negative) are used to maintain the desired response, and two types of punishment (again, positive and negative) are used to change the behavior. In this case, the child being quiet at the physician’s office is the desired behavior.

      Figure 1.3: Example of operant conditioning

      Operant conditioning includes using different stimuli to provoke a specific, desired response rather than provoking the same involuntary response, such as in classical conditioning.

      An example scenario—a child waiting in a physician’s office—is used to demonstrate positive and negative reinforcement (at the top) and positive and negative punishment (at the bottom). If the child sits quietly while waiting in the physician’s office, then a parent could positively reinforce this behavior by offering a reward (TV time) or negatively reinforce this behavior by removing an unwanted action (chores). Both reinforcements result in the desired behavior (sitting quietly in a professional environment), and the next time the child is likely to repeat the desired behavior. If the child does not sit quietly in the physician’s office, then a parent could positively punish this behavior by adding to an unwanted task (extra chores) or negatively punish this behavior by removing a reward (no TV time). Both punishments result in improvement of the desired behavior (sitting quietly in a professional environment) when the child encounters the situation again.

      © Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

      Each of these concepts will be more fully addressed in the next two series of excerpts. The first discusses classical conditioning and is from Clark (2004). The article will go into detail about the differing types of stimuli (conditioned versus unconditioned).

      The second series of excerpts discusses operant conditioning and is from Macias (2016). It will provide a deeper look into reinforcers and punishments. As you read, compare and contrast these two types of conditioning and consider how, with each new development, more questions arise about how associations occur and if they affect learning.

      Excerpts from “The Classical Origins of Pavlov’s Conditioning”

      By R. E. Clark

      Classical Conditioning

      In the most basic form of classical conditioning, the stimulus that predicts the occurrence of another stimulus is termed the conditioned stimulus (CS) (in Pavlov’s experiment, the tone). The predicted stimulus is termed the unconditioned stimulus (US) (in Pavlov’s experiment, the food). The CS is a relatively neutral stimulus that can be detected by the organism, but does not initially induce a reliable behavioral response. The US is a stimulus that can reliably induce a measurable response from the first presentation. The response that is elicited by the presentation of the US is termed the unconditioned response (UR) (in Pavlov’s experiment, the drool as a result of the food). The term “unconditioned” is used to indicate that the response is “not learned,” but rather it is an innate or reflexive response to the US. With repeated presentations of the CS followed by US (referred to as paired training) the CS begins to elicit a conditioned response (CR) (in Pavlov’s experiment, the drool as a result of the tone alone). Here the term “conditioned” is used to indicate that the response is “learned.” See Figure 1.4 for an illustration of these relationships.

      Figure 1.4: A typical classical conditioning procedure

      An unconditioned stimulus (US), food, leads to an unconditioned response (UR), salivation. Introducing a conditioned stimulus (CS) of a tone before the food’s presentation results in the tone eventually creating a conditioned response (CR) of salivation, even without food.

      This diagram consists of two sections. The top section is labeled “Conditioning.” Here, we see the word “CS-tone” followed by a broken line ending in a right arrow. The arrow is pointing at the word “US-food,” which is followed by a solid black line ending in a right arrow that points to the word “UR-salivation.” The bottom section is labeled “Result.” The word “CS-tone” appears, followed by a broken line ending in a right arrow. The arrow points to the word “CR-salivation.”

      From Psychology of Learning (p. 47), by D. A. Lieberman, 2012, San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Copyright 2012 by Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

      Edwin Burket Twitmyer (1873–1943)

      The phenomenon of classical conditioning was discovered independently in the United States and Russia around the turn of the 19th century. In the United States, Edwin B. Twitmyer made this discovery at the University of Pennsylvania while finishing his dissertation work on the “knee-jerk” reflex. When the patellar tendon is lightly tapped with a doctor’s hammer, the well-known “knee-jerk” reflex is elicited. Twitmyer had initially intended to study the magnitude of the reflex under normal and facilitating conditions (Figure 1.5). In the facilitating conditions the subjects were asked to verbalize the word “ah,” or to clench their fists, or to imagine clenching their fists (Twitmyer, 1902/1974). A bell that was struck one-half second before the patellar tendon was tapped served as signal for the subjects to begin verbalizing or fist clenching (or imagining fist clenching). Twitmyer observed:

      [D]uring the adjustment of the apparatus for an earlier group of experiments with one subject . . . a decided kick of both legs was observed to follow a tap of the signal bell occurring without the usual blow of the hammers on the tendons. . . . Two alternatives presented themselves. Either (1) the subject was in error in his introspective observation and had voluntarily moved his legs, or (2) the true knee jerk (or a movement resembling it in appearance) had been produced by a stimulus other than the usual one. (as cited in Irwin, 1943, p. 452) [. . .]

      Twitmyer apparently did not fully appreciate the potential significance of this finding beyond recording this initial observation, and the work was never extended. It has been suggested that Twitmyer’s failure to systematically investigate this phenomenon and the lack of interest exhibited by his colleagues who heard the presentation was likely due in part to the prevailing American zeitgeist where interest in delineating the components of consciousness through introspection was the principal perspective (Irwin, 1943; Coon, 1982). Thus, Twitmyer and his contemporaries would have been predisposed to undervalue the usefulness, to the field of psychology, of something as basic as a modifiable reflex. This was not the case in Russia.

      Figure 1.5: Twitmyer’s “knee-jerk” reflex experiment

      This photograph (circa 1903) shows a young subject and the experimental apparatus Twitmyer used to measure the magnitude of the knee-jerk reflex (see for details).

      In the photograph, a young subject sits in a chair. An apparatus is placed before him so that instruments at knee level and above can implement and monitor the knee-jerk reflexes being studied.

      University of Pennsylvania Archive, photographer unknown.

      Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849–1936)

      The Russian discovery of classical conditioning comes from the pioneering work of Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. [. . .] In 1904, Pavlov was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on the physiology of digestion. This early research, which used dogs as experimental subjects, set the stage for observing the phenomenon of classical conditioning. As early as 1880, Pavlov and his associates observed that sham feedings, in which food was eaten but failed to reach the stomach (being lost through a surgically implanted esophageal fistula), produced gastric secretions, just like real food.

      Pavlov’s laboratory modified this preparation in order to simplify the forthcoming studies. Rather than measure gastric secretions, they began measuring salivation (see Figure 1.6). Salivation was chosen because an efficient and highly practical method of measuring salivation using a permanently implanted fistula had just been developed in the laboratory (Pavlov, 1951; Windholz, 1986). In 1897, Stefan Wolfson (also translated as Sigizmund Vul’fson), a doctoral student of Pavlov, made an important observation:

      We place before the nose of the dog a glass of carbon bisulphide . . . from its two salivary glands flows saliva . . . we stimulate the dog a few times with the same glass of carbon bisulphide. The saliva flows each time. Now we substitute surreptitiously an identical glass containing water. The dog salivates again, although with a smaller quantity of saliva. (translated in Windholz, 1986, p. 142)

      Figure 1.6: Apparatus used in Pavlov’s study

      Apparatus used in Pavlov’s study of salivary conditioning in dogs. Saliva flowed through a tube connected to the dog’s cheek and traveled to another room, where it could be recorded.

      This drawing shows a dog being held inside a specialized apparatus. The apparatus consists of four beams joined together by an overlying crossbeam. There are three rope harnesses that extend down from the crossbeam to hold the dog steady. One of the harnesses extends down from the back and loops around the dog’s haunches. Another harness loops around the dog’s two front legs, and another attaches to a collar around his neck. The dog stands in the middle of the apparatus, facing a table upon which sits a large bowl. The dog’s chin is positioned over the bowl. There is a long, narrow tube hanging down from the dog’s jowls and connecting to a special machine on the floor that looks like it attaches to a small pump. The tube runs from this pump to another room, where it connects to another pump-like machine.

      Adapted from “The Method of Pawlow in Animal Psychology,” by R. M. Yerkes & S. Morgulis, 1909, Psychological Bulletin, 6, 265. Copyright 1909 by R. M. Yerkes & S. Morgulis. Adapted with permission.

      Pavlov immediately recognized the significance of these findings, findings that would ultimately lead him to change the direction of his research to explore this phenomenon. His initial results were officially presented to the International Congress of Medicine held in Madrid, Spain, in 1903. This report was entitled “Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology in Animals.” [. . .]

      The Emergence of Classical Conditioning in the United States

      Pavlov’s work on classical conditioning was essentially unknown in the United States until 1906, when his lecture “The Scientific Investigation of the Psychical Faculties or Processes in the Higher Animals” was published in the journal Science (Pavlov, 1906). In 1909 Robert Yerkes (1876–1956), who would later become president of the American Psychological Association, and Sergius Morgulis published an extensive review of the methods and results obtained by Pavlov, which they described as “now widely known as the Pawlow [sic] salivary reflex method” (Yerkes & Morgulis, 1909, p. 257).

      Initially Pavlov and his associates used the term conditional rather than conditioned. Yet Yerkes and Morgulis chose to use the term conditioned. They explained their choice of terms in a footnote:

      Conditioned and unconditioned are the terms used in the only discussion of this subject by Pawlow [sic] which has appeared in English. The Russian terms, however, have as their English equivalents conditional and unconditional. But as it seems highly probable that Professor Pawlow [sic] sanctioned the terms conditioned and unconditioned, which appear in the Huxley lecture (Lancet, 1906), we shall use them. (Yerkes & Morgulis, 1909, p. 259)

      The terms conditioned reflex and unconditioned reflex were used during the first two decades of the 20th century, during which time this type of learning was often referred to as “reflexology.” In 1921, the first textbook devoted to conditioning (General Psychology in Terms of Behavior) adopted the terms conditioned and unconditioned response to replace the term reflex (Smith & Guthrie, 1921). De-emphasizing the concept of a reflex and instead using a more general term like response allowed a larger range of behaviors to be examined with conditioning procedures. [. . .]

      A portrait of psychologist John B. Watson.

      George Rinhart/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

      Psychologist John B. Watson is well known for the “Little Albert” case, in which, over time, a young boy learned to fear white rats. This is an example of classical conditioning.

      John B. Watson (1878–1958) championed the use of classical conditioning as a research tool for psychological investigations. During 1915, his student Karl Lashley conducted several exploratory conditioning experiments in Watson’s laboratory. Watson’s presidential address, delivered in 1915 to the American Psychological Association, was entitled “The Place of the Conditioned Reflex in Psychology” (Watson, 1916). Watson was highly influential in the rapid incorporation of classical conditioning into American psychology, though this influence did not appear to extend to his student. Lashley became frustrated with his attempts to classically condition the salivary response in humans (Lashley, 1916) and permanently abandoned the paradigm. In 1920, Watson’s work with classical conditioning culminated in the now infamous case of “Little Albert” (first mentioned in the Introduction chapter).

      Albert B. was an 11-month-old boy who had no natural fear of white rats. Watson and Rosalie Rayner used the white rat as a CS. The US was a loud noise that always upset the child. By pairing the white rat and the loud noise, Albert began to cry and show fear of the white rat—a CR. With successive training sessions over the course of several months, Watson and Rayner were able to demonstrate that this fear of white rats generalized to other furry objects (Watson & Rayner, 1920). The plan had been to then systematically remove this fear using methods that Pavlov had shown would eliminate or extinguish the conditioned response, in this case, fear of furry white objects. Unfortunately, “Little Albert,” as he has historically come to be known, was removed from the study by his mother on the day these procedures were to begin. Unfortunately, there is no known reliable account of how this experiment on classical conditioning of fear ultimately affected Albert B. Nevertheless, this example of classical conditioning may be the most famous single case in the literature on classical conditioning.

      The end of the beginning of classical conditioning as a paradigm in the United States can be traced to the 1927 publication of Pavlov’s book Conditioned Reflexes, which was translated into English by a former student, G. V. Anrep (Pavlov, 1927). This made all of Pavlov’s conditioning work available in English for the first time. The availability of 25 years’ worth of Pavlov’s research, in vivid detail, led to increased interest in the experimental examination of classical conditioning, an interest that has continued to this day. [. . .]

      By 1935 B. F. Skinner entered this discussion in earnest when he published a paper titled “Two Types of Conditioned Reflexes and a Pseudo-Type” (Skinner, 1935). This was a theoretical paper where Skinner attempted to add clarity and structure to distinguish two types of conditioned reflexes. [. . .] It is clear that one type corresponds to what would eventually be termed operant conditioning and the second type corresponds to Pavlov’s type of conditioning. [. . .]

      Source: Clark, R. E. (2004). The classical origins of Pavlov’s conditioning. Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science, 39(4), 279–294. Copyright © 2004, Springer.

      Operant Conditioning

      First coined by behaviorist B. F. Skinner (1904–1990), the word operant was used to describe the behavior that is in response to the environment and generated consequences (1953). Basically, Skinner suggested that when a behavior was reinforced, it would increase or be validated. If a behavior was not reinforced but instead resulted in a punishment, then the behavior would diminish or be eliminated. These associations describe the core of operant conditioning. As noted at the start of this section, the following excerpts from Macias (2016) explain the roles of reinforcements and punishments in conditioning.

      Excerpts from “Reinforcement”

      By S. I. Macias

      Types of Reinforcers

      The range of possible consequences that can function as reinforcers is enormous. To make sense of this assortment, psychologists tend to place them into two main categories: primary reinforcers and secondary reinforcers. Primary reinforcers are those that require little, if any, experience to be effective. Food, drink, and sex are common examples. While it is true that experience will influence what would be considered desirable for food, drink, or an appropriate sex partner, there is little argument that these items, themselves, are natural reinforcers. Another kind of reinforcer that does not require experience is called a social reinforcer. Examples are social contact and social approval. Even newborns show a desire for social reinforcers. Psychologists have discovered that newborns prefer to look at pictures of human faces more than practically any other stimulus pattern, and this preference is stronger if that face is smiling. Like the other primary reinforcers, experience will modify the type of social recognition that is desired. Still, it is clear that most people will go to great lengths to be noticed by others or to gain their acceptance and approval.

      Though these reinforcers are likely to be effective, most human behavior is not motivated directly by primary reinforcers. Money, entertainment, clothes, cars, and computer games are all effective rewards, yet none of these would qualify as natural or primary reinforcers. Because they must be acquired, they are called secondary reinforcers. These become effective because they are paired with primary reinforcers. The famous American psychologist B. F. Skinner found that the sound of food being delivered was sufficient to maintain a high rate of bar pressing in experienced rats. Obviously, under normal circumstances the sound of the food occurred only if food was truly being delivered.

      How a secondary reinforcer becomes effective is called two-factor theory and is generally explained through a combination of instrumental and Pavlovian conditioning (hence the label “two-factor”). For example, when a rat receives food for pressing a bar (positive reinforcement), at that same time a neutral stimulus is also presented, the sound of the food dropping into the food dish. The sound is paired with a stimulus that naturally elicits a reflexive response; that is, food elicits satisfaction. Over many trials, the sound is paired consistently with food; thus, it will be conditioned via Pavlovian methods to elicit the same response as the food. Additionally, this process occurred during the instrumental conditioning of bar pressing by using food as a reinforcer.

      This same process works for most everyday activities. For most humans, money is an extremely powerful reinforcer. Money itself, though, is not very attractive. It does not taste good, does not reduce any biological drives, and does not, on its own, satisfy any needs. However, it is reliably paired with all of these things and therefore becomes as effective as these primary reinforcers. In a similar way, popular fashion in clothing, hair styles, and personal adornment; popular art or music; even behaving according to the moral values of one’s family or church group (or one’s gang) can all come to be effective reinforcers because they are reliably paired with an important primary reinforcer, namely, social approval. The person who will function most effectively as the approving agent changes throughout life. One’s parents, friends, classmates, teachers, teammates, coaches, spouse, children, and colleagues at work all provide effective social approval opportunities.

      Reinforcers and Punishers

      A young child potty training.


      Potty training a child is an example of reinforcement, where a parent may reward or cheer on the child throughout the process to attain a successful result.

      To maintain a reasonable degree of consistency, most psychologists use the term “reinforcement” exclusively for a process of using rewards to increase voluntary behavior. The field of study most associated with this technique is instrumental conditioning. In this context, the formal definition states that a reinforcer is any consequence to a behavior that is emitted in a specified situation that has the effect of increasing that behavior in the future. It must be emphasized that the behavior itself is not sufficient for the consequence to be delivered. The circumstances in which the behavior occurs are also important. Thus, standing and cheering at a basketball game will likely lead to approval (social reinforcement), whereas this same response is not likely to yield acceptance if it occurs at a funeral.

      A punisher is likewise defined as any consequence that reduces the probability of a behavior, with the same qualifications as for reinforcers. A behavior that occurs in response to a specified situation may receive a consequence that reduces the likelihood that it will occur in that situation in the future, but the same behavior in another situation would not generate the same consequence. For example, drawing on the walls of a freshly painted room would usually result in an unpleasant consequence, whereas the same behavior (drawing) in one’s coloring book would not.

      The terms “positive” and “negative” are also much more tightly defined. Former use confused these with the emotional values of good or bad, thereby requiring the counterintuitive and confusing claim that a positive reinforcer is withheld or a negative reinforcer presented when there is clearly no reward, and, in fact, the intent is to reduce the probability of that response (such as described by Kimble). A better, less confusing definition is to consider “positive” and “negative” as arithmetic symbols, as for adding or subtracting. They therefore are the methods of supplying reinforcement (or punishment) rather than descriptions of the reinforcer itself. Thus, if a behavior occurs, and as a consequence something is given that will result in an increase in the rate of the behavior, this is positive reinforcement. Giving a dog a treat for executing a trick is a good example. One can also increase the rate of a behavior by removing something on its production. This is called negative reinforcement. A good example might be when a child who eats his or her vegetables does not have to wash the dinner dishes. Another example is the annoying seat belt buzzer in cars. Many people comply with the rules of safety simply to terminate that aversive sound.

      The descriptors “positive” and “negative” can be applied to punishment as well. If something is added on the performance of a behavior which results in the reduction of that behavior—that is positive punishment. On the other hand, if this behavior causes the removal of something that reduces the response rate—negative punishment. A dog collar that provides an electric shock when the dog strays too close to the property line is an example of a device that delivers positive punishment. Loss of television privileges for rudeness is an example of negative punishment. See Table 1.2 for an overview of reinforcements and punishments.

      Table 1.2: Reinforcements and punishments

      Type Description Example
      positive reinforcement Adds to the environment to encourage continuance of a desired behavior. Giving child a reward (a treat, a toy, etc.)
      positive punishment Adds to the environment to discourage continuance of an undesired behavior. Adding chores to a child’s weekly duties
      negative reinforcement Takes away from the environment to encourage continuance of a desired behavior. Taking away child’s assigned chores for the week
      negative punishment Takes away from the environment to discourage continuance of an undesired behavior. Grounding child from playing with his/her friends

      © Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

      Why Reinforcers Work

      Reinforcers (and punishers) are effective at influencing an organism’s willingness to respond because they influence the way in which an organism acquires something that is desired, or avoids something that is not desired. For primary reinforcers, this concerns health and survival. Secondary reinforcers are learned through experience and do not directly affect one’s health or survival, yet they are adaptive because they are relevant to those situations that are related to well-being and an improved quality of life. Certainly learning where food, drink, receptive sex partners, or social acceptance can be located is useful for an organism. Coming to enjoy being in such situations is very useful, too. [. . .]

      Patterns of Reinforcer Delivery

      It is not necessary to deliver a reinforcer on every occurrence of a behavior to have the desired effect. In fact, intermittent reinforcement has a stronger effect on the stability of the response rate than reinforcing every response. If the organism expects every response to be reinforced, suspending reinforcement will cause the response to disappear very quickly. If, however, the organism is familiar with occasions of responding without reinforcement, responding will continue for much longer on the termination of reinforcers.

      There are two basic patterns of intermittent reinforcement: ratio and interval. These patterns, or rules, are known as schedules of reinforcement. Ratio schedules are based on the number of responses required to receive the reinforcer. Interval schedules are based on the amount of time that must pass before a reinforcer is available. Both schedules have fixed and variable types. On fixed schedules, whatever the rule is, it stays that way. If five responses are required to earn a reinforcer (a fixed ratio 5, or FR 5), every fifth response is reinforced. A fixed interval of 10 seconds (FI 10) means that the first response after 10 seconds has elapsed is reinforced, and this is true every time (responding during the interval is irrelevant). Variable schedules change the rule in unpredictable ways. A VR 5 (variable ratio 5) is one in which, on the average, the fifth response is reinforced, but it would vary over a series of trials. A variable interval of 10 seconds (VI 10) is similar. The required amount of time is an average of 10 seconds, but on any given trial it could be different.

      An example of a fixed-ratio (FR) schedule is pay for a specific amount of work, such as stuffing envelopes. The pay is always the same; stuffing a certain number of envelopes always equals the same pay. An example of a fixed-interval (FI) schedule is receiving the daily mail. Checking the mailbox before the mail is delivered will not result in reinforcement. One must wait until the appropriate time. A variable-ratio (VR) schedule example is a slot machine. The more attempts, the more times the player wins, but in an unpredictable pattern. A variable-interval (VI) schedule example would be telephoning a friend whose line is busy. Continued attempts will be unsuccessful until the friend hangs up the phone, but when this will happen is unknown. See Table 1.3 for an overview of ratio and interval schedules.

      Table 1.3: Ratio and interval schedules of reinforcement

      Schedule type Description Example
      fixed-ratio (FR) Amount of reinforcer stays the same. Paying a person $10/hour
      fixed-interval (FI) Time of reinforcement stays the same. Paying a person every Friday for work completed
      variable-ratio (VR) Reinforcers are administered in unpredictable amounts. Paying a person a bonus for time worked; amount is unknown but time may be known (such as end of the year)
      variable-interval (VI) Reinforcers are administered at unpredictable times. Paying a person a bonus of a predictable amount but at unpredictable times

      © Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

      Response rates for fixed schedules follow a fairly specific pattern. Fixed ratio schedules tend to have a steady rate until the reinforcer is delivered; then there is a short rest, followed by the same rate. A fixed interval is slightly different. The closer one gets to the required time, the faster the response rate. On receiving the reinforcer there will be a short rest, then a gradual return to responding, becoming quicker and quicker over time. This is called a “scalloped” pattern. (Though not strictly an FI schedule, it does have a temporal component, so it illustrates the phenomenon nicely.) Students are much more likely to study during the last few days before a test and very little during the days immediately after the test. As time passes, study behavior gradually begins again, becoming more concentrated the closer the next exam date comes.

      Source: Macias, S. I. (2016). Reinforcement. In Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health. Copyright © EBSCO.

      Classical and operant conditioning can often be difficult concepts to understand at first glance, and it can be helpful to think about how these types of learning processes might happen in our lives each day. For instance, have you ever rewarded your children for doing what you asked? As they became older, did you have to reward them every single time, as you may have when they were younger, or could you reward them every now and again and still see the behavior repeated? By fully understanding the principles of classical and operant conditioning, you will be more apt to identify—and perhaps even implement—differing schedules of reinforcement in your own life. The last section of this chapter will guide you through two modern applications of conditioning. Reinforcing Your Understanding: Conditioning takes a closer look at Skinner’s conditioning research.

      <span id=”w22887″ class=”werd”> </span>

      Reinforcing Your Understanding: Conditioning

      The following video considers Skinner’s work in conditioning. In his original research, Skinner used pigeons as subjects and grain to teach the pigeons to perform certain behaviors. Review this video to reinforce your understanding of punishment versus reinforcers and how the schedule and rate of reinforcers affect learning.

      <span id=”w22948″ class=”werd”>&nbsp;</span>

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      1.4 Behaviorism Applied

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      1.4 Behaviorism Applied

      A walkway adjacent to a wall lined with Apple iPod advertisements.

      Ullstein bild/Getty Images

      Do the vibrant colors and illustrations in the Apple iPod advertisements elicit a positive feeling? Classical conditioning in advertising generally assumes that favorability toward a certain product develops from a positive commercial or advertisement.

      Now that you are familiar with how behaviorism was shaped and refined through continuous research, consider how it can be applied in modern environments. The excerpts in this section are from two separate articles. Both selections demonstrate the application of strategies based on behaviorism. The first series of excerpts is from Wells (2014) and illustrates how such strategies are used to understand consumer behaviors and then applied to product marketing; consumer behaviors research aims to identify why people buy what they buy. For example, an organization can use what it knows about its consumers when developing campaigns; its marketing campaigns will often apply some of the behavioral principles. Do you recognize the example in the pictured advertisement? Does it trigger specific emotional responses or beliefs about the product? Do you use this specific brand of product? Many of the advertisers’ decisions and consumer behaviors associated with their products are based on behaviorism.

      Excerpts from “Behavioural Psychology, Marketing, and Consumer Behaviour: A Literature Review and Future Research Agenda”

      By V. K. Wells

      Classical Conditioning in Marketing and Consumer Behavior Research

      [. . .] Allen and Janiszewski (1989), based on their work on contingency awareness, provide an anecdotal illustrative example of how classical conditioning could work successfully and be correctly used in advertising (a television commercial for Diet Pepsi), in which most of the work on classical conditioning in consumption and marketing has taken place. They suggest that:

      This commercial features a repetitive musical jingle with a series of brief visual clips. The jingle lyrics—”Now you see it, now you don’t, here you have it, here you won’t”—are precisely coordinated with the image presentation . . . the CS (the brand) predicts the US (a slim female torso). In each instance “Now you see it, now you don’t” is sung as first the brand (CS) and then a trim-figured woman (US) is shown. (pp. 39–40)

      Overall, there has been mixed support for classical conditioning effects in advertising, but the general suggestion is that positive attitudes toward an advertised product (CS) might develop through their association in a commercial with other stimuli that are reacted to positively (US), such as pleasant colors, music, and humor (Gorn, 1982).

      Early work applying classical conditioning to advertising appears to have been based on and inspired by the work of Razran (1938), who paired a free meal (US) with various political statements (CS). He found that agreement with the slogans was greater when people received a free meal than when they did not. The work of Staats and Staats (1958), who successfully associated visually presented nonsense symbols (CS) with several spoken words (US) such as beautyhealthysmart, and success, opened the door further for a classical conditioning approach to advertising. After the associative pairings, the participants’ ratings of the CS indicated that the core meaning in the US (i.e., either positive or negative evaluation) had transferred to the nonsense syllables (Allen & Janiszewski, 1989). In a second experiment, Allen and Janiszewski associated each of two national names (“Swedish” and “Dutch”) with either 18 positive or 18 negative words. The national name paired with positive words was later evaluated more favorably than the one paired with negative words. [. . .]


      The first characteristic, acquisition, indicates that classically conditioned responses do not fully appear after only one pairing/trial, and the strength of the response increases with the number of pairings (McSweeney & Bierley, 1984). Whereas early studies used only one or an arbitrary number of pairings, experimenters quickly began testing the optimum level of pairings/trials, often experimenting with different numbers of pairings in different experimental groups. The focus of the first of the four experiments by Stuart, Shimp, and Engle (1987) was on testing the amount of conditioning with different numbers of pairings (1, 3, 10, and 20). They found that the groups subjected to higher levels of pairings/trials (10 and 20) demonstrated significantly higher levels of conditioning. They also attempted to test the optimum number of trials to ensure effective conditioning and used 1, 3, 10, and 20 pairings of the CS and US; they found that conditioning was greater as the number of trials increased. Although other studies have used different trial numbers, there remains no agreement on an optimum number of trials for conditioning to occur.


      Extinction is the prediction that the conditioned behavior will disappear if the predictive relationship between the CS and the US is broken by either omitting the US entirely or by presenting the CS and US randomly (McSweeney & Bierley, 1984). Till, Stanley, and Pirluck (2008) explored the characteristic of extinction empirically. Their study paired brands with celebrities and measured attitudes toward the brands after conditioning. Attitudes increased with the use of well-liked and relevant celebrities. They then attempted to extinguish these effects but found that, once paired, the pairings were difficult to eliminate, with brand attitudes still affected 2 weeks after the procedure (Till et al., 2008). Till and Priluck (2000) studied the characteristic of generalization, or the extent to which a response conditioned to one stimulus transfers to similar stimuli. Through two experimental procedures, they found that attitudes conditioned to a particular brand (Garra mouthwash) could be transferred (generalized) to a product with a similar name (Gurra, Gurri, and Dutti) in the same category, as well as a product with the same name in a different category (soap). [. . .]

      Operant Conditioning in Marketing and Consumer Behavior Research

      In operant conditioning, behavior is shaped and maintained by its consequences (Foxall, 1986), meaning that the rate at which a behavior will be performed is directly related to the consequences of that behavior performed previously. [. . .] According to Skinner, each behavioral act can be broken down into three key parts: (1) the response/behavior (R); (2) the reinforcement/punishment (S+/–), which is a consequence of the behavior; and (3) a discriminative stimulus (Sd), which is a cue that signals the likelihood of positive or negative consequences arising from performing the behavior (Foxall, 1986, 2002). The three parts together, labelled the three-term contingency, highlight that the determinants of the behavior must occur in the environment (Foxall, 1986, 1993):

      Sd → R → S+/–

      In general, behavior modifiers include positive and negative reinforcement, and positive and negative punishment. Positive reinforcement is generally a reward or something that strengthens the behavior (e.g., a pleasant experience or satisfaction with a product, a positive response to a behavior), which likely leads the person to buy the product again in future. With negative reinforcement, the behavior is generally performed to avoid unpleasantness (e.g., buying a product to avoid an aggressive salesperson, purchase and consumption of painkillers to relieve a headache; Simintiras & Cadogan, 1996). Punishment is an aversive consequence after a behavioral response and may lead to the extinction of a behavior (Nord & Peter, 1980). An example of punishment is a product that does not do the job it was designed to do or is of poor quality, and thus the buyer no longer buys it.

      Reinforcement, in both experimental procedures and real-life situations, is provided on a schedule. [. . .] Research has shown that intermittent schedules of reinforcement develop high rates of behavior resistant to extinction, and they are also more economical because they use fewer reinforcers, which can reduce the cost (Peter & Nord, 1982). Peter and Nord (1982) suggest that most marketing activity in the real world (differentiating brands and manipulating marketing variables such as price and promotions) often occurs on an intermittent schedule.

      In terms of marketing and consumer behavior, a full range of behavior, such as actual purchasing, visiting and browsing in a store, and searching for information online, can be examined under the three-term contingency. Foxall (1986, p. 404) also documents that verbal behavior, for example, sharing positive or negative word of mouth about a product, can also be examined but notes that “behaviors which belong to different classes (e.g. talking about how one will vote and actually voting) will be consistent only when the contingency of reinforcement applicable to both are functionally equivalent.”

      Discriminative stimuli serve to signal the probability of behavior being reinforced and can change the probability of a behavior being emitted. Nord and Peter (1980) provide examples of discriminative stimuli such as store signs (e.g., 50% off, buy one get one free), store logos (e.g., Kmart’s big red “K,” McDonald’s golden arches), or distinctive brand marks (e.g., Levi’s, Coca-Cola). Past learning history and experiences will have taught customers that responding to cues such as these in the past rewards them with satisfactory value purchases. They may also have learned that they are not rewarded when the symbols or cues are absent. [. . .]

      Source: Wells, V. K. (2014). Behavioural psychology, marketing and consumer behaviour: A literature review and future research agenda. Journal of Marketing Management, 30(11/12), 1119–1158. Copyright © 2014 Routledge.

      Behaviorism in Educational Environments

      The second series of excerpts in this section is from Standridge (2002). Standridge demonstrates the application of behaviorism in education and considers the importance of such strategies when reinforcing preferred behaviors and discouraging unwanted behaviors. Behavior modification is an important strategy for creating positive environments that support effective learning opportunities. The selection introduces the concepts of modeling, cueing, and behavior modification. As you read, consider how similar strategies for putting theory into practice could also be used in organizations and family units.

      Excerpts from “Behaviorism”

      By M. Standridge

      [ . . .] Behaviorist techniques have long been employed in education to promote behavior that is desirable and discourage that which is not. Among the methods derived from behaviorist theory for practical classroom application are contracts, consequences, reinforcement, extinction, and behavior modification.

      Contracts, Consequences, Reinforcement, and Extinction

      Simple contracts can be effective in helping children focus on behavior change. The relevant behavior should be identified, and the child and counselor should decide the terms of the contract. Behavioral contracts can be used in school as well as at home. It is helpful if teachers and parents work together with the student to ensure that the contract is being fulfilled. [. . .]

      Consequences occur immediately after a behavior. Consequences may be positive or negative, expected or unexpected, immediate or long term, extrinsic or intrinsic, material or symbolic (a failing grade), emotional/interpersonal, or even unconscious. Consequences occur after the “target” behavior occurs, when either positive or negative reinforcement may be given. Positive reinforcement is presentation of a stimulus that increases the probability of a response. This type of reinforcement occurs frequently in the classroom. Teachers may provide positive reinforcement by:

      · Smiling at students after a correct response.

      · Commending students for their work.

      · Selecting them for a special project.

      · Praising students’ ability to parents.

      Negative reinforcement increases the probability of a response that removes or prevents an adverse condition. Many classroom teachers mistakenly believe that negative reinforcement is punishment administered to suppress behavior; however, negative reinforcement increases the likelihood of a behavior, as does positive reinforcement. Negative implies removing a consequence that a student finds unpleasant. Negative reinforcement might include:

      · Obtaining a score of 80% or higher makes the final exam optional.

      · Submitting all assignments on time results in the lowest grade being dropped.

      · Perfect attendance is rewarded with a “homework pass.”

      Punishment involves presenting a strong stimulus that decreases the frequency of a particular response. Punishment is effective in quickly eliminating undesirable behaviors. Examples of punishment include:

      · Students who fight are immediately referred to the principal.

      · Late assignments are given a grade of “0.”

      · Three tardies to class results in a call to the parents.

      · Failure to do homework results in after-school detention (privilege of going home is removed).

      Table 1.4 provides a comparison and examples of reinforcements and punishments. Also see Reinforcing Your Understanding: Reinforcement and Punishment in the Classroom for a more in-depth example.

      Table 1.4: Reinforcement and punishment comparison

        Reinforcement (Behavior increases) Punishment (Behavior decreases)
      Positive (Something is added) Positive reinforcement: Something is added to increase desired behavior.

      Example: Smile and compliment student on good performance.

      Positive punishment: Something is added to decrease undesired behavior.

      Example: Give student detention for failing to follow the class rules.

      Negative (Something is removed) Negative reinforcement: Something is removed to increase desired behavior.

      Example: Give a free homework pass for turning in all assignments.

      Negative punishment: Something is removed to decrease undesired behavior.

      Example: Make students miss their time in recess for not following the class rules.

      Adapted from “Behaviorism” by M. Standridge, 2002, in M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology ( Copyright 2002 by M. Standridge. Adapted with permission.

      Extinction decreases the probability of a response by contingent withdrawal of a previously reinforced stimulus. Examples of extinction are:

      · A student has developed the habit of saying the punctuation marks when reading aloud. Classmates reinforce the behavior by laughing when he does so. The teacher tells the students not to laugh, thus extinguishing the behavior.

      · A teacher gives partial credit for late assignments; other teachers think this is unfair; the teacher decides to then give zeros for the late work.

      · Students are frequently late for class, and the teacher does not require a late pass, contrary to school policy. The rule is subsequently enforced, and the students arrive on time.

      Reinforcing Your Understanding: Reinforcement and Punishment in the Classroom

      Reinforcement and punishment are still often used as methods for classroom management in today’s schools. By shaping student behavior, instructors have the ability to be more focused on the concepts that need to be learned. The following student-created video presents a quality demonstration of reinforcement and punishment in a classroom scenario. In this video, the teacher, Mr. Andrews, uses each method to demonstrate operant conditioning in scenarios with one particularly rambunctious student, Benjamin.

      Modeling, Shaping, and Cueing

      A toddler trying on adult high-heeled sandals.


      A child trying on an adult’s clothing could be an example of observational learning; once the child sees a parent wearing high heels, a large coat, or even makeup, the child may try to model that behavior.

      Modeling is also known as observational learning (where the learner imitates, or models, the others’ behavior). Albert Bandura has suggested that modeling is the basis for a variety of child behavior. Children acquire many favorable and unfavorable responses by observing those around them. A child who kicks another child after seeing this on the playground, or a student who is always late for class because his friends are late, is displaying the results of observational learning.

      Shaping is the process of gradually changing the quality of a response. The desired behavior is broken down into discrete, concrete units, or positive movements, each of which is reinforced as it progresses toward the overall behavioral goal. In the following scenario, the classroom teacher employs shaping to change student behavior: The class enters the room and sits down, but continues to talk after the bell rings. The teacher gives the class one point for improvement, in that all students are seated. Subsequently, the students must be seated and quiet to earn points, which may be accumulated and redeemed for rewards.

      Cueing may be as simple as providing a child with a verbal or nonverbal signal as to the appropriateness of a behavior. For example, to teach a child to remember to perform an action at a specific time, the teacher might arrange for him to receive a cue immediately before the action is expected rather than after it has been performed incorrectly. For example, if the teacher is working with a student who habitually answers aloud instead of raising his hand, the teacher should discuss a cue such as hand-raising at the end of a question posed to the class.

      Behavior Modification

      Behavior modification is a method of eliciting better classroom performance from reluctant students. It has six basic components:

      1. Specification of the desired outcome (What must be changed and how will it be evaluated?). One example of a desired outcome is increased student participation in class discussions.

      2. Development of a positive, nurturing environment (by removing negative stimuli from the learning environment). In the above example, this would involve a student-teacher conference with a review of the relevant material, and calling on the student when it is evident that she knows the answer to the question posed.

      3. Identification and use of appropriate reinforcers (intrinsic and extrinsic rewards). A student receives an intrinsic reinforcer by correctly answering in the presence of peers, thus increasing self-esteem and confidence.

      4. Reinforcement of behavior patterns develop until the student has established a pattern of success in engaging in class discussions.

      5. Reduction in the frequency of rewards—a gradual decrease in the amount of one-on-one review with the student before class discussion.

      6. Evaluation and assessment of the effectiveness of the approach based on teacher expectations and student results. Compare the frequency of student responses in class discussions to the amount of support provided, and determine whether the student is independently engaging in class discussions (Brewer, Campbell, & Petty, 2000).

      [. . .] Further methods for behavior modification could include changing the environment, using models for learning new behavior, recording behavior, substituting new behavior to break bad habits, developing positive expectations, and increasing intrinsic satisfaction. [. . .]

      Source: Standridge, M. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

      As we develop our understanding of how we learn, it is important to recognize the crucial foundations that characterize learning psychology, such as behaviorism and behavior analysis. Today, many different professions use and adapt behaviorist methods to help people succeed in their learning opportunities. Whether you want to become a counselor, a teacher, a human resources director, an employee development specialist, a psychologist, a researcher, or simply the best parent you can be, behaviorism offers you applicable strategies for encouraging appropriate and healthy behaviors in others. Reinforcing Your Understanding: Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) offers a glimpse at one young boy’s experiences with reward-based therapy.

      Reinforcing Your Understanding: Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)

      Behaviorism, more commonly referred to today as behavioral analysis, is applied in a wide range of professional areas, including, but not limited to, learning, counseling, behavior management, and the treatment of autism and other disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. In each area, reinforcements are often used to encourage desired behaviors. The following video clip demonstrates the benefits of applied learning strategy when working with children who have autism. In this example, a 2-year-old boy diagnosed with autism, Jake, receives ABA therapy.

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      · Knowledge Check

      · Notebook

      Summary & Resources

      Chapter Summary

      Behaviorism is a foundational framework that encourages those interested in how we learn to study, reflect, and identify patterns that support the stimulus-response premise. Dating back as far as Aristotle and his ideas about associations, these ideas have matured, been challenged, and continue to be elaborated upon through years of reflection and research. As explained by Watrin and Darwich (2012) in section 1.1, behaviorism is often misunderstood and difficult to clearly explain.

      However, additional articles in this chapter help us to bridge the gaps created by the multifaceted metamorphosis of this theoretical model. Instinctively, the foundations of behaviorism can be categorized by the S → R relationship and the suggestion that learning is the outward manifestation of the desired behavior, and although there are differing methods of how a stimulus can be applied to gain differing responses, this is a foundational component of the behaviorist ideology. See Figure 1.7 for a side-by-side presentation of the stimulus-response relationships in connectionism and conditioning.

      Figure 1.7: Overview of the principles of conditioning

      The foundations of behaviorism lie in the stimulus-response theoretical model. This model can be applied to connectionism and conditioning.

      A side-by-side presentation of the stimulus-response relationships in connectionism and conditioning. At the top, the relationship in connectionism is shown. At the bottom, the relationship before, during, and after conditioning is shown. Both represent stimulus with an "S" and response with an "R." In connectionism, "S" leads to "R," which leads to a confirming reaction. After the confirming reaction functions as a force connecting and binding the "S" and "R," then the "S" leads to the confirming reaction, which leads to "R." Before conditioning, "S" does not lead to a response, but an unconditioned stimulus (shown as "US") leads to an unconditioned response (shown as "UR"). During conditioning, the conditioned stimulus (shown as "CS") is followed by the "US," which leads to the "UR." After conditioning, the "CS" leads to the conditioned response (shown as "CR").

      © Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

      Key Ideas

      · Behaviorism suggests that learning has successfully occurred when the appropriate behavior is observed.

      · Behaviorism suggests many relevant strategies for successful learning, educating, and counseling.

      · Behavior analysis constitutes a field and a psychological system devoted to the study of behavior.

      · Skinnerian behaviorism established the fundamental concepts and methods of behavior analysis.

      · Connectionism is defined as the connections (influences) between situations and responses.

      · Thorndike suggests that intelligence is related to the bonds formed by a person to the event, content, etc. and that the more bonds that are formed, the more intelligent the person is.

      · Thorndike’s laws of learning suggest formulations by which learning follows and includes three major laws: effectexercise or frequency, and readiness.

      · Pavlov is widely considered the founder of classical conditioning.

      · Watson was an important researcher who introduced classical conditioning into American psychology. His work included the case of “Little Albert.”

      · Classical conditioning suggests that one stimulus (e.g., food) can strengthen the potential response to another stimulus (e.g., a bell or tone) that is not physiologically conducive to evoking an unconditioned response (UR) (e.g., salivation).

      · The response that is elicited by the presentation of the unconditioned stimulus (US) (e.g., the bell) is termed the unconditioned response (UR) (e.g., salivating).

      · Reinforcement is used to increase a desired behavior. This can be either negative reinforcement (e.g., taking away chores) or positive reinforcement (e.g., giving additional TV time).

      · Punishment is used to decrease behavior. It can be positive punishment (e.g., giving additional chores due to behavior) or negative punishment (e.g., taking away time with friends).

      · Today, principles of conditioning are applied in many different professional disciplines, such as marketing and education.

      Additional Resources

      Visit the following websites to further your understanding of the topics and prominent researchers that were introduced in this chapter.


      · Stanford Encyclopedia, general information: /behaviorism/

      · Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, general information: /behavior.htm

      · Funderstanding, general information: and -child/

      Ivan Pavlov

      · Nobel Prize, biography: /1904/pavlov-bio.html

      B. F. Skinner

      · PBS, biography and work:

      · Instructional Design, operant conditioning: /theories/operant-conditioning.html

      · Skinner Foundation, a nonprofit organization:

      · Funderstanding, radical behaviorism: /skinners-radical-behaviorism/

      Edward Thorndike

      · Muskingum College, Department of Psychology, biography and work:

      · York University, Toronto, biography and work: /Thorndike/education.htm

      J. B. Watson

      · Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. Retrieved from -principles-of-learning-the-short-version/

      · J. B. Watson and the Little Albert phobia experiments

      · A Science Odyssey: John B. Watson: /entries/bhwats.html

      Key Terms


      behavior analysis

      behavior modification

      classical conditioning

      conditioned response (CR)

      conditioned stimulus (CS)



      fixed-interval (FI) schedule

      fixed-ratio (FR) schedule


      intermittent reinforcement

      laws of learning



      negative punishment

      negative reinforcement

      operant conditioning

      positive punishment

      positive reinforcement

      schedules of reinforcement


      theory of connectionism

      unconditioned response (UR)

      unconditioned stimulus (US)

      variable-interval (VI) schedule

      variable-ratio (VR) schedule




      The Foundations of Behaviorism


      Learning Objectives


      After reading this chapter, you should be able to do the following:




      Explain the controversial history and arguments of behaviorism.




      Describe associative learning.




      Explain connectionism and the law of effect.




      Compare and contrast classical and operant conditioning.




      Identify examples of rat

      io and interval schedules.




      Discuss settings where behaviorism, in the area of learning, is applied.




      When you were a child, were you ever




      sent to your room for a bad behavior, a consequence that continued to occur until you

      changed your behavior?




      slapped on the

      hand for touching something that you were not supposed to touch?




      yelled at if you walked into the street without first looking for cars?




      given an allowance when you completed your chores?




      allowed to go on dates but only if you were home by curfew?




      given a

      sticker or badge for an assignment when you did well?


      All of these examples could be categorized as behaviorist techniques for reinforcing learning.


      The Foundations of Behaviorism

      Learning Objectives

      After reading this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

       Explain the controversial history and arguments of behaviorism.

       Describe associative learning.

       Explain connectionism and the law of effect.

       Compare and contrast classical and operant conditioning.

       Identify examples of ratio and interval schedules.

       Discuss settings where behaviorism, in the area of learning, is applied.


      When you were a child, were you ever

       sent to your room for a bad behavior, a consequence that continued to occur until you

      changed your behavior?

       slapped on the hand for touching something that you were not supposed to touch?

       yelled at if you walked into the street without first looking for cars?

       given an allowance when you completed your chores?

       allowed to go on dates but only if you were home by curfew?

       given a sticker or badge for an assignment when you did well?

      All of these examples could be categorized as behaviorist techniques for reinforcing learning.

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