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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 6

“Verbal behavior fits the pattern of the three-term contingency and supplies many illuminating examples. We learn to name objects by acquiring an enormous repertoire of responses each of which is appropriate to a given occasion.” (p. 109)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 5

“It is obviously advantageous that a response occur only when it is likely to be reinforced . . . The social environment contains vast numbers of such contingencies. A smile is an occasion upon which social approach will meet with approval. A frown is an occasion upon which the same approach will not meet […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 4

“We describe the contingency by saying that a stimulus . . .  is the occasion upon which a response . . . is followed by reinforcement . . . All three terms must be specified.” (p. 108)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 3

“Most operant behavior, however, acquires important connections with the surrounding world . . . But the relation is fundamentally quite different [from the reflex]. It has a different history and different current properties.” (pp. 107-108)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 2

“Stimuli are always acting upon an organism, but their functional connection with the operant behavior is not like that in the reflex. Operant behavior, in short, is emitted, rather than elicited. It must have this property if the notion of probability of response is to makes sense.” (p. 107)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 7: Operant Discrimination, Quote 1

“Operant conditioning may be described without mentioning any stimulus which acts before the response is made. In reinforcing neck-stretching in the pigeon, it was necessary to wait for the stretching to occur; we did not elicit it.” (p. 107)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 16

“Schedules of pay in industry, salesmanship, and the professions, and the use of bonuses, incentive wages, and so on, could also be improved from the point of view of generating maximal productivity. Whether these improvements should be permitted is a matter to be discussed later . . . We have much to gain from […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 15

“The long-term net gain or loss is almost irrelevant in accounting for the effectiveness of this [variable ratio] schedule.” (p. 104)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 14

“We get rid of the pauses after reinforcement on a fixed ratio schedule by adopting essentially the same practice as in variable-interval reinforcement: we simply vary the ratios over a considerable range around some mean value.” (p. 104)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 13

“Under ratios of reinforcement which can be sustained, the behavior eventually shows a very low probability just after reinforcement, as it does in the case of fixed-interval reinforcement.” (p. 103)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 12

“The high rate of responding and the long hours of work generated by this [fixed ratio] schedule can be dangerous to health. This is the main reason why piecework pay is usually strenuously opposed by organized labor.” (p. 102)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 11

“Since [intermittent reinforcement] is a technique for “getting more responses out of an organism” in return for a given number of reinforcements, it is widely used.” (pp 99-100)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 10

“A large part of behavior . . . is reinforced only intermittently. A given consequence may depend upon a series of events which are not easily predicted. We do not always win at cards or dice, because the contingencies are so remotely determined that we call them “chance.” (p. 99)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 9

“In general, behavior which acts upon the immediate physical environment is consistently reinforced.” (p. 99)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 8

“One reason the term “learning” is not equivalent to “operant conditioning” is that traditionally it has been confined to the process of learning how to do something . . . Operant conditioning continues to be effective even when there is no further change which can be spoken of as acquisition or even as improvement […]

Teaching Machine for the New Generation

The Analysis of Behavior: A Program for Self-Instruction by James G. Holland and B. F. Skinner introduced behavior analysis to thousands of students.  The program produced a superior level of mastery than that obtained from textbooks. The program shaped basic behavioral concepts with small steps that built to teach increasingly complex skills. The 1961 […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 7

“The reinforcement which develops skill must be immediate. Otherwise, the precision of the differential effect is lost.” (p. 96)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 6

“The contingency which improves skill is the differential reinforcement of responses possessing special properties.” (p. 95)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 5

“Verbal behavior supplies especially good examples of the need to consider these atoms . . . A rigorous analysis shows that the word is by no means the functional unit. Larger complexes of words—idioms, phrases, or memorized passages—may vary together under control of a single variable. On the other hand, we may observe the […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 4

“The traditional explanation of transfer asserts that the second response is strengthened only insofar as the responses “possess identical elements.” This is an effort to maintain the notion of a unit of response. A more useful way of putting it is to say that the elements are strengthened wherever they occur. This leads us […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 3

“But if we are to account for many of its quantitative properties, the ultimately continuous nature of behavior must not be forgotten.
Neglect of this characteristic has been responsible for several difficult problems in behavior theory. An example is the effect sometimes spoken of as “response generalization,” “transfer,” or “response induction.” In reinforcing one operant […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 2

“When we survey behavior in . . . later stages, we find it convenient to distinguish between various operants which differ from each other in topography and produce different consequences. In this way behavior is broken into parts to facilitate analysis.” (p. 93)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 6: Shaping and Maintaining Operant Behavior, Quote 1

“Operant conditioning shapes behavior as a sculptor shapes a lump of clay. Although at some point the sculptor seems to have produced an entirely novel object, we can always follow the process back to the original undifferentiated lump, and we can make the successive stages by which we return to this condition as small […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 22

“Reflexes and other innate patterns of behavior evolve because they increase the chances of survival of the species. Operants grow strong because they are followed by important consequences in the life of the individual. Both processes raise the question of purpose for the same reason, and in both the appeal to a final cause […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 21

“The fact that operant behavior seems to be “directed toward the future” is misleading. Consider, for example, the case of “looking for something.” In what sense is the ”something” which has not yet been found relevant to the behavior? . . . In general, looking for something consists of emitting responses which in the […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 20

“Purpose is not a property of the behavior itself; it is a way of referring to controlling variables . . . The subject himself, of course, may be in an advantageous position in describing these variables because he has had an extended contact with his own behavior for many years. But his statement is […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 19

“Instead of saying that a man behaves because of the consequences which are to follow his behavior, we simply say that he behaves because of the consequences which have followed similar behavior in the past. This is of course, the Law of Effect or operant conditioning.” (p. 87)

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 18

“It is not correct to say that operant reinforcement “strengthens the response which precedes it.” The response has already occurred and cannot be changed. What is changed is the future probability of responses in the same class.  It is the operant as a class of behavior, rather than the response as a particular instance, […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 17

“Several important generalized reinforcers arise when behavior is reinforced by other people. A simple case is attention [Others are approval, affection and submissiveness.]” (p. 78)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 16

“It is possible, however, that some of the reinforcing effect of “sensory feed-back” is unconditioned. A baby appears to be reinforced by stimulation from the environment which has not been followed by primary reinforcement. The baby’s rattle is an example. The capacity to be reinforced in this way could have arisen in the evolutionary […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 15

“One form of precurrent behavior may precede different kinds of reinforcers upon different occasions. The immediate stimulation from such behavior will thus become a generalized reinforcer. We are automatically reinforced, apart from any particular deprivation, when we successfully control the physical world. This may explain our tendency to engage in skilled crafts, in artistic […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 14

“Although it is characteristic of human behavior that primary reinforcers may be effective after long delay, this is presumably only because intervening events become conditioned reinforcers.” (p. 76)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 13

“We cannot dispense with this survey [of reinforcers] simply by asking a man what reinforces him. His reply may be of some value, but it is by no means necessarily reliable. A reinforcing connection need not be obvious to the individual reinforced.” (p.75)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 12

“The difference between the two cases will be clearer when we consider the presentation of a negative reinforcer or the removal of a positive. These are the consequences which we call punishment.” (p. 73)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 11

“Events which are found to be reinforcing are of two sorts. Some reinforcements consist of presenting stimuli, of adding something— for example, food, water, or sexual contact—to the situation. These we call positive reinforcers. Others consist of removing something— for example, a loud noise, a very bright light, extreme cold or heat, or […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 10

“There is nothing circular about classifying events in terms of their effects; the criterion is both empirical and objective. It would be circular, however, if we then went on to assert that a given event strengthens an operant because it is reinforcing.” (p. 73)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 9

“The only way to tell whether or not a given event is reinforcing to a given organism under given conditions is to make a direct test. We observe the frequency of a selected response, then make an event contingent upon it and observe any change in frequency. If there is a change, we classify […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 8

“The condition of low operant strength resulting from extinction often requires treatment. Some forms of psychotherapy are systems of reinforcement designed to reinstate behavior which has been lost through extinction.” (p. 72)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 7

“The failure of a response to be reinforced leads not only to operant extinction but also to a reaction commonly spoken of as frustration or rage. A pigeon which has failed to receive reinforcement turns away from the key, cooing, flapping its wings, and engaging in other emotional behavior.” (p. 69)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 6

“A single reinforcement may have a considerable effect. Under good conditions the frequency of a response shifts from a prevailing low value to a stable high value in a single abrupt step.” (p. 67)

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New Board of Directors Member

David C. Palmer has replaced Brenda Terzich-Garland as a member of the Board of Directors of the B. F. Skinner Foundation. We thank Brenda for her service and look forward to working with Dave over the next few years. Dave has participated in the Foundation’s activities before, and contributed the new Foreword for the […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 5

“While we are awake, we act upon the environment constantly, and many of the consequences of our actions are reinforcing. Through operant conditioning the environment builds the basic repertoire with which we keep our balance, walk, play games, handle instruments and tools, talk, write, sail a boat, drive a car, or fly a plane.” […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 4

“In operant conditioning we “strengthen” an operant in the sense of making a response more probable or, in actual fact, more frequent. In Pavlovian or “respondent” conditioning we simply increase the magnitude of the response elicited by the conditioned stimulus and shorten the time which elapses between stimulus and response.” (p. 65)

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Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 3

“A response which has already occurred cannot, of course, be predicted or controlled. We can only predict that similar responses will occur in the future. The unit of a predictive science is, therefore, not a response but a class of responses. The word “operant” will be used to describe this class. The term emphasizes […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 2

“It is customary to refer to any movement of the organism as a “response.” The word is borrowed from the field of reflex action and implies an act which, so to speak, answers a prior event—the stimulus. But we may make an event contingent upon behavior without identifying, or being able to identify, a […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 5: Operant Behavior, Quote 1

“Learning curves do not, however, describe the basic process of stamping in. Thorndike’s measure—the time taken to escape— involved the elimination of other behavior, and his curve depended upon the number of different things a cat might do in a particular box. It also depended upon the behavior which the experimenter or the apparatus […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 4: Reflexes and Conditioned Reflexes, Quote 5

“[Respondent] conditioning adds new controlling stimuli, but not new responses. In using the principle, therefore, we are not subscribing to a “conditioned reflex theory” of all behavior. (p. 56)

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New edition of Operants delivered to subscribers

As promised, Operants magazine has transitioned from a quarterly publication to six editions per year. The January-February, 2016 issue has been delivered to subscribers and it features a wealth of material on the history of behavioral science. Enjoy a trip back in time to B. F. Skinner’s early years at Harvard and learn who […]

Behavior of Organisms available in e-book formats

B. F. Skinner’s first book, The Behavior of Organisms is now available in electronic formats. Exclusive to the B. F. Skinner Foundation’s bookstore (http://www.bfskinner.org/shop-2/) is the PDF, priced at $0.99. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior and other PDFs are $0.99 as well, and Science and Human Behavior is free. These PDFs are Name-Your-Price products. That means […]

Science and Human Behavior, Chapter 4: Reflexes and Conditioned Reflexes, Quote 4

“Pavlov’s achievement was the discovery, not of neural processes, but of important quantitative relations which permit us, regardless of neurological hypotheses, to give a direct account of behavior in the field of the conditioned reflex.” (p. 54)

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