Schedules of Reinforcement (PDF)

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The contingent relationship between actions and their consequences lies at the heart of Skinner’s experimental analysis of behavior. Particular patterns of behavior emerge depending upon the contingencies established. Ferster and Skinner examined the effects of different schedules of reinforcement on behavior.

An extraordinary work, Schedules of Reinforcement represents over 70,000 hours of research primarily with pigeons, though the principles have now been experimentally verified with many species including human beings. At first glance, the book appears to be an atlas of schedules. And so it is, the most exhaustive in existence. But it is also a reminder of the power of describing and explaining behavior through an analysis of measurable and manipulative behavior-environment relations without appealing to physiological mechanisms in the brain. As en exemplar and source for the further study of behavioral phenomena, the book illustrates the scientific philosophy that Skinner and Ferster adopted: that a science is best built from the ground up, from a firm foundation of facts that can eventually be summarized as scientific laws.