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Lets explain the Operant Conditioning In Psychology: B.F. Skinner Theory

B.F. Skinner, an American psychologist, developed the theory of operant conditioning, which is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an individual makes an association between a particular behavior and a consequence (either a reward or punishment). Skinner’s theory is a fundamental concept in behavioral psychology and has had a significant impact on education, parenting, animal training, and many other areas.

Operant Conditioning

Here are the key components of Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning:

1. Reinforcement

Reinforcement is any event that strengthens or increases the behavior it follows. Skinner identified two types of reinforcements:

  • Positive Reinforcement: Involves adding something pleasant after a behavior, increasing the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated. For example, giving a child a treat for doing their homework.
  • Negative Reinforcement: Involves removing something unpleasant as a result of the behavior, also increasing the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated. For example, turning off an annoying alarm when you wake up and get out of bed.

2. Punishment

Punishment, on the other hand, is meant to decrease or eliminate a behavior. Skinner also identified two types of punishment:

  • Positive Punishment: Adding an unpleasant consequence after an undesired behavior. For example, scolding a pet for misbehaving.
  • Negative Punishment: Removing something pleasant as a result of the undesired behavior. For example, taking away a child’s video game time because of bad behavior.

3. Schedules of Reinforcement

Skinner also explored schedules of reinforcement, which are rules determining how often a desired behavior will be reinforced. These schedules can be fixed or variable, and interval-based (time) or ratio-based (number of responses). The schedule can significantly affect how quickly and robustly the behavior is learned and maintained.

4. Operant Conditioning Chamber (Skinner Box)

To study operant conditioning, Skinner invented the Operant Conditioning Chamber, also known as the Skinner Box. This device allowed him to study behavior in a controlled environment. It typically contains a lever or button that an animal can press to get a reward (like food) and a device to deliver a punishment (like a mild electric shock).

Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning has been influential in various fields, demonstrating the power of consequences in shaping behavior. It highlights the importance of understanding the effects of reinforcement and punishment in learning and behavior modification.


  1. Skinner, B.F. (1991). The behavior of organisms: An experimental analysis. Copley.
  2. Skinner, B.F. (1953). Science and human behavior. Macmillan.

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