Skinner Box: Experiment & Theory Video

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chris Clause
In this lesson, you will learn what a Skinner box is and how it can be used. Following this lesson you will have an opportunity to test your knowledge with a short quiz.

Structure and Purpose of the Skinner Box

Ever hear about some study done on animals and wonder how the scientists could have made their conclusions? How do they know that outside factors didn't affect their tests? Well, one tool they use is a Skinner box. A Skinner box is an animal chamber used in behavioral psychology to test hypotheses related to behavior and learning. It gets its name from the 20th-century American psychologist B.F. Skinner.

B.F. Skinner
BF Skinner

Skinner was an early pioneer in behavioral psychology and an influential figure in the history of psychology. Skinner developed the Skinner box in the 1940s to create a controlled environment where animal subjects could be studied without interference from the environment. The Skinner box is unique in that it is intentionally designed to be relatively small in size, containing only devices essential to the experiment, but allowing the subject room to move freely. Many are also soundproof in an added effort to minimize outside noise influencing the subject. Many Skinner boxes became equipped to automatically dispense food pellets, which further minimized the need for environmental intervention. The Skinner box is still used by psychologists today in research laboratories across the world. Naturally, its design has evolved over time, but the basic principles remain.

Skinner's early work focused on operant conditioning, which is a specific type of associative learning where the subject engages in a behavioral response with an expectation of a reward. The reward serves as a reinforcer, which is intended to increase the behavior being observed. Skinner did not want outside influences, including even the researcher, to influence the subject's behavior, and the Skinner box was his answer.

Skinner Box
Skinner Box

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