Skinnerian Conditioning – A Tool to teach behavior

January 22, 2023

Skinnerian conditioning is also known as operant conditioning. It is a theory of learning developed by psychologist B.F. Skinner. It states that consequences shape behaviour. Positive or Negative. According to Skinner, reinforcement will result in you doing more of the same. Punishment will result in you avoiding that behaviour.
The first principle of Skinnerian conditioning is the concept of reinforcement. Reinforcement can be either positive or negative. Positive reinforcement occurs when a reward follows an exhibited behaviour. A dog getting a treat for sitting, for example. Negative reinforcement occurs by the removal of a negative stimulus. Turning off a loud noise after a baby stops crying. Both forms of reinforcement increase the likelihood of reptition of that behaviour.
The second principle of Skinnerian conditioning is the concept of negative stimulus. Negative stimulus is when a negative outcomes follows a particular type of behavior. Time out for a child behaving badly, for example. The goal is to nudge the child into avoiding that behavior in the future. Skinner’s theory has been applied to a wide range of human behaviours. Education, parenting and even dealing with patients.
You may not have realised it, but Skinnerian conditioning has been an integral part of our lives. Each time you got a rank, reward, award or even praise, the theory was being used. Parents in particular use praise and allowances to encourage their children. The framework is what the parent deems to be appropriate behavior.
The theory has become the basis for treatment of addictions and phobias. Imagine a lizard frightens you. A reward was given each time you saw the image of a lizard and did not respond. Over time, the conditioning would help you overcome the fear of the lizard. Or imagine each time you delayed the gratification of a desire or need, an award was forthcoming. You would learn the value of delayed gratification.
The next time you see a desert or chocolate you wish to eat and dont, give yourself a star. Even if it’s mental. You may witness a shift in behavior.S

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