Skinner introduced anew term into the Law of Effect - Reinforcement. Behaviour that is reinforced tends to be repeated (i.e. strengthened behaviour that is not reinforced tends to die out-or be extinguished (i.e. weakened. Skinner studied operant conditioning by conducting experiments using animals, which he placed in a “ Skinner Box ” which was similar to Thorndike’s puzzle box.
56 The Skinner box involved placing an animal (such as a rat or pigeon) into a sealed box with a lever that would release food when pressed. If food was released every time the rat pressed the lever, it would press it more and more because it learnt that doing so gives it food. Lever pressing is described as an operant behaviour, because it is an action that results in a consequence. In other words, it operates on the environment and changes it in someway. The food that is released as a result of pressing the lever is known as a reinforcer, because it causes the operant behaviour (lever pressing) to increase. Food could also be described as a conditioned stimulus because it causes an effect to occur. Note: There is an important difference between a reward and a reinforcer in operant conditioning. • A reward is something, which has value to the person giving the reward, but may not necessarily be of value to the person receiving the reward. •
A reinforcer is something, which benefits the person receiving it, and so results in an increase of a certain type of behaviour.