Radical Behaviorism: Theory of Reinforcement
Scholars believed that B.F. Skinner’s view on reinforcement was derived and patterned from Thorndike’s law of effect in 1911. This theory asserts that particular stimuli can function as either punishers or reinforcers in a given situation (Adams, 2000, p. 5). When Skinner developed this concept in the 1950s, he merely described the relation between stimulus and the change of behavior of a subject. This is deemed as the simplest reinforcement theory version. The radical behaviorist did not offer at all an explanation of “the why of reward’s effect on behavior” (Berridge, 2001, p. 223). As what Skinner believed:
The Law of Effect is no theory. It simply specifies a procedure for altering the probability of a chosen response. But when we try to say why [italics in original] reinforcement has this effect, theories arise. Learning is said to take place because the reinforcement is pleasant, satisfying, tension-reducing, and so on (Skinner, 1950, p. 78).
The operation of reinforcement pertains to “the presentation of a certain kind of stimulus in a temporal relationship with either a stimulus or a response” (Adams, 2000, p. 3). Reinforcement generally aims to alter the strength or weakness of response behavior. It is “the idea that reward learning consists primarily of a process by which behavior is directly strengthened or weakened by the consequence that follows it” (Berridge, 2001, p. 223). The response relies heavily on the consequence of an action. In other wor…
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