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B.F. Skinner is more popularly known as the psychologist who experimented with pigeons that led to the concept of reinforcement. In this experiment, Skinner placed a pigeon in a case with only a food hopper. Skinner placed food at the hopper, but the pigeon was unable to get the food. At intervals, Skinner dropped food at the hopper. Each time, the pigeon would stand on one foot, hop, or strut around with its neck stretched out. Skinner observed this behavior repeated just before the pigeon was given food. Skinner then called this behavior of the pigeon as superstitious (Morris & Maisto, 2005, p. 198).
Another notable contribution of Skinner in the field of psychology is the notion of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is characterized by a behavior that is voluntary and not affected by outside events (Morris & Maisto, 2005, p. 201). Skinner spearheaded the study of operant conditioning which led to the use of Skinner box. Skinner box refers to a device that has small solid walls that serve as cage for rats. The box has a bar with a cup beneath it. It will not take long for a hungry rat to step on the bar, thus releasing food into the cup. This reinforces the behavior of the rat (p.202).
Another notable contribution to the field of psychology, according to Morris and Maisto (2005), is reinforcement, which is further divided into negative and positive. These types of reinforcement lead to learning new behaviors or strengthening of the existing ones. Positive reinforcers are those which add something pleasing to a situation such as food. Negative reinforcers, on the other hand, withdraw something unpleasant or unrewarding by removing the unpleasant stimulus. An example of these types of reinforcement is this: animals learn to open doors or press bars not only for the rewards such as food (this is positive reinforcement) but also to escape from unpleasant stimulus such as loud noise (negative reinforcement) (p.194).
Lastly, Skinner contributed in the field of psychology by his studies on the concept of punishment. Punishment is applied to control behavior. This is different from negative reinforcement in that punishment adds something unpleasant to the situation which leads to the weakening of a behavior. Skinner observes that punishment has drawbacks, including the suppression of behavior (Morris & Maisto, 2005, pp. 195-196).
These are just among the important contributions of Skinner in the field of psychology that help mental health experts such as psychologists.