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17.S: Chapter Summary

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    Review of Key Points

    • Skinner emphasized the experimental analysis of human behavior, despite its complexity. He addressed causes and effects, but was very precise in describing a cause as a change in an independent variable and an effect as a change in a dependent variable.
    • Reinforcers increase the likelihood of behaviors that precede them; punishers decrease the likelihood of behaviors that precede them.
    • Positive reinforcement involves giving a reinforcer, negative reinforcement involves removing an aversive or noxious stimulus.
    • Positive punishment involves applying a punisher, negative punishment involves removing reinforcers.
    • Discriminative stimuli signal the behavioral contingencies in effect at a given time.
    • Skinner automated much of his research, inventing the operant conditioning chamber (aka, the Skinner box). The data were typically collected in the form a cumulative record.
    • The operant conditioning chamber was designed to control the schedule of reinforcement. These schedules could be either fixed or variable, and based on either ratios (number) or intervals (time).
    • Operant conditioning can lead to complex behavior by shaping the behavior in a series of small steps.
    • When a subject accidentally forms an inappropriate association, superstitious behavior can result.
    • Skinner claimed that our typical idea of the person, or the self, is a vestige of animism, the belief that we are inhabited by spirits. Instead, he believed we are simply a locus for the convergence of genetic and environmental conditions.
    • According to Skinner, education can be made more efficient by using programmed instruction and teaching machines.
    • Language, according Skinner, begins with the association of simple word elements known as mands.
    • Skinner believed that behavioral principles could be applied to improve life in old age as well as to improve society itself.
    • In attempting to address mental illness, Skinner did not rule out the possibility of a disordered mind. However, he felt that such a construct served no useful purpose in understanding abnormal behavior. He also believed that mental illness focused on issues of control.
    • Clark Hull, a major influence on Dollard and Miller, proposed a mathematical model of learning that included the nature of the mind and experience.
    • Dollard and Miller believed that frustration always led to aggression, and that aggression could always be traced back to frustration. They applied their frustration-aggression hypothesis to a variety of cultural groups.
    • Dollard and Miller began the field of social learning, with an emphasis on the learning processes of imitation and copying.
    • When addressing psychological disorders, Dollard and Miller emphasized conflict. They provided a theoretical basis for understanding approach-approach conflicts, approach-avoidance conflicts, and avoidance-avoidance conflicts.
    • By incorporating an appreciation for the contribution of object relations theory, Wachtel has advanced our understanding of how learning theory and psychodynamic theory can be combined in an eclectic approach to psychotherapy.
    • Tweed and Lehman caution against regional stereotypes when examining cultural aspects of learning. They propose using the terms “culturally Western” and, for their particular study, “culturally Chinese.”
    • Since culture is learned early in life, any attempt to incorporate the best aspects of different cultural approaches to education must begin early.

    17.S: Chapter Summary is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mark D. Kelland.

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