John Stuart Mill's Operant Conditioning Theory

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Reinforcement is a concept that has been defined throughout history and specifically a term that was coined when the operant conditioning theory was introduced. Early theorists in the far past were giving broad explanations as to what they believed was the process in which we learn new information. Later in the recent past psychologists were providing reinforcement theories, specifically the operant conditioning theory. This theory has everything pertaining to reinforcement which were more grounded on experimental work using animals. Today, we are not so much focusing on how to define reinforcement in terms of motivation, but rather hypothesizing about the application and contexts of reinforcement schedules. In the future, theories about reinforcement …show more content…
Mill considered himself to hold the theory of “empiricism firsthand” (Goodwin, 2009). Mill was a product of his environment. His father, John Mill, had a rigorous teaching method where he had his son learn more than the average child, and think critically about all the information he took in. He also made sure to never praise his child when he did well (Goodwin, 2009). This is interesting because while it shows a lack or reinforcement, it allows us to see how people thought about reinforcement in subtle ways before there was a sound theory for it. This was the beginning of reinforcement and an example of how people thought it should be applied. Mill, although never positively reinforced through appraisal, became a very intelligent person and credited his father’s teaching methods completely. At this time in history, many people believed in innate knowledge. Mill, however, disagreed that a person was either intelligent or not, he argued that a person who strived to achieve would achieve. What both of the Mill boys didn’t realize was that although they were forming learning theories, they were also applying reinforcement theories to their …show more content…
F. Skinner, however, rejected Thorndike’s law of effect theory and moved towards observable behavior. This was a huge shift in psychology where Watson and Skinner were creating theories that didn’t look at the consciousness and looked at observable behavior. Skinner did a lot of work developing the operant conditioning theory. Operant conditioning in the learning of new behaviors through positive or negative reinforcers. Like Thorndike, Skinner put animals, specifically pigeons, into boxes and observed them. The difference was that Skinner was looking for the observed behaviors. Skinner’s operant conditioning theory is what most people think of today when they hear the word reinforcement. Skinners theory is complex, and begins with the different types of reinforcement. The different types are positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is giving someone something desirable to increase a behavior. Negative reinforcement is taking something undesirable away to increase behavior. There is also a punishment side to the operant conditioning theory. Positive punishment is giving something undesirable and negative is taking away something desirable to decrease a behavior. Another huge part of the operant conditioning theory is the idea of schedules. There are four types of schedules that explain the different ways reinforcement can be given out. There is fixed ratio, giving reinforcement after a set number of events, variable ratio, giving reinforcement after a

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