Skinner and Staats

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					                           Skinner and Staats
                      The Challenge of Behaviorism

Behaviorism is a complex theory of aspects of learning, when applied to
personality theory, describes personality as an accumulation of learned
responses. Skinner’s form is called radical behaviorism and Arthur Staats’
form is called psychological behaviorism, since it incorporates other
psychological principles beyond pure learning and observable behavior.
Staats also explores language and cognition, emotion and motivation, and
sensory-motor behaviors.

Radical Behaviorism: B.F. Skinner devised a theory of behavior based on
behavior being shaped by its consequences and outcomes- rewards gained or
punishers suffered. Skinner primarily worked with animals but never
hesitated to generalize his animal findings to human behavior.
       Skinner was born in 1904 in Pennsylvania to a middle-class family.
He had a happy childhood and showed a lot of interest in invention of
devices. His primary interest was in writing, so he majored in English at
college. While he gained some notice for his poetry, when he took a year off
to write his novel, he couldn’t find anything significant to write about. He
believed understanding human behavior would be more rewarding than
writing about it after the fact. So he went to Harvard for grad school in
psychology, making up for his deficiencies (he had had no classes in
psychology) by extensive reading of primary sources. He began
investigating the processes of learning after developing the Skinner box to
measure animal responses. Learning had been studied up to that time in
mazes, but many aspects of learning were confounded in such a system. He
earned his doctorate in 1931, married in 1936 and took a teaching job at
University of Minnesota. He had 2 daughters, one of whom was raised in an
apparatus he designed called the air crib, which controlled her environment.
During World War II he trained pigeons to guide missiles to targets, which
kept soldiers from such dangerous duty. It was successful, but the
government abandoned the project as the focus shifted to the atomic bomb.
Skinner continued to study principles of conditioning, and applied these
principles to society, as he wrote a novel called Walden Two. This book
showed how behaviorist principles could be used to design an idyllic
society. Skinner ultimately returned to Harvard in 1948 to continue his
research. He died from leukemia in 1990, after receiving the APA
Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology award. He did
significantly impact the direction of psychology, with his movement being
called the second wave of psychology, following psychoanalytic theory. It
did push psychology into the mainstream of hard science, as he only studied
observable phenomena, and found infinite numbers of ways to control and
predict these behaviors. Later behaviorists added the cognitive aspects to
human behavior to understanding, as Skinner’s version of understanding the
human being left out the very humanity for which humans are noted.

Behavior as the Data for Scientific Study- Skinner didn’t suggest causes
of behavior as coming from within the person, as a result of personality
differences. He thought personality theories up to then had been
contaminated by circular reasoning; that personality was not scientifically
measurable, so was of no interest to science. (Traits are inferred from
behavior, so they are simply summary descriptions of behavior.) Skinner
only wanted to know what controlled behavior, so he concentrated on
changing things in the environment to see how they affected behavioral
outputs. So he focused on the environmental explanations, rewards and
punishments to explain behavior. They were easier for scientists to
manipulate and observe. Since Skinner eschewed any internal explanations
for behavior, his theory was called radical behaviorism. He believed one
didn’t need to understand any internal variables (intervening cognitive
variables) to manipulate behavior, so they were unnecessary to study. Yet
we know that thoughts often cause behavior- we act on thoughts. Everything
that was ever created by man was first a thought. Yet Skinner was not
interested- it was enough to study the observable results- behavior. He
believed thoughts were merely collateral products of environmental factors
that also cause behavior. He also stressed means of control of behavior.
     The evolutionary context of operant behavior- Humans are so
       successful as a species because we have learned to adapt to changing
       environments. This skill came to us through evolution, as the most
       adaptive humans survived to reproduce most successfully. Operant
       conditioning is the selection of behavior due to its consequences.
     The rate of responding shows the effectiveness of learning. As
       animals learn a behavior, they display it more rapidly and effectively
       to gain their rewards. So Skinner used lower animals to control their
       environments more completely and ascertain what affects rates of
       response. He developed the Skinner box, an apparatus which can be
       adjusted to provide rewards at a pace desired by the researcher, and
       allow the animal to respond according to its learning speed. These
       responses are called operant responses, responses freely emitted by
      the animal, that were recorded on a print out. Rat responses were level
      presses, while pigeons’ responses were disk pecking. So Skinner built
      on the animal’s natural response repertoire.

Learning Principles: rates of responding can be increased by
reinforcement, and decreased by punishment/ extinction.
    Reinforcement: Increasing the Rate of Responding
         o Positive reinforcer is any stimulus that strengthens the
            behavior it follows.
         o Base rate of response is first ascertained in a study- what does
            the subject do without any particular response in the
            environment? This base rate must be known in order to measure
            any response increase or decrease after reinforcers are used.
         o Primary reinforcers are innate gratifying results- food when
            hungry, water when thirsty, sex when deprived. Nothing must
            be learned for these to be reinforcing.
         o Secondary reinforcers are things whose value has been
            learned- praise, money, attention. People have varying
            responses to these secondary reinforcers. The same thing which
            triggers one person to work into a frenzy doesn’t affect another
            person much at all. The effects must be noted to understand
            whether a consequence is reinforcing or not. So Skinner
            actually developed an idiographic approach to study of
            personality- one must understand the unique reinforcement
            history of the subject to understand his particular response
         o Negative reinforcer is any stimulus that increases a response
            by being withdrawn. So the behavior increases when the
            aversive stimulus ends or is escaped. This is not the same as
            punishment, which is designed to get the subject to stop

Punishment and Extinction: Decreasing the Rate of Responding
   Punishment reduces the rate of responding. It is an aversive that
     appears upon response. Unfortunately this is the most common
     parental discipline tool, yet it is not the most effective. Even religions
     use it to threaten the faithful into behaving themselves virtuously &
     controlling their lustful desires. There are unintended negative effects,
     though, such as developing fears/ anxieties in the children, resistance
     to the authority figure, & hidden rebellions in other places. It really
     only works if the authority figure is around to enforce the
     consequences, so the value is not internalized within the child.
     Skinner did not believe punishment was an effective means of
     behavior control. He believed positive reinforcement was much more
     effective, as it trained the child toward a positive goal instead of
     focused him/her on avoidance of a negative behavior.
    Extinction is a means of eliminating a behavior by simply no longer
     reinforcing it- by ignoring a distressing behavior, it will decline. Even
     after a behavior is eliminated, though, it may recur, as the child tests
     the environment to see if a reward might still be forthcoming. The
     problem with extinction in parenting is that children have more energy
     to continue a behavior than parents have in ignoring it! Also a
     distressing behavior often gets reinforcement from peers, siblings, not
     just parents.

Additional behavioral techniques
   Shaping is a way of training in a new behavior that the animal or
     person has never done before. It relies on reinforcing successive
     approximations of the desired response. In the beginning of toilet
     training, the child is rewarded for simply sitting on the toilet.
     Gradually a response is emitted and rewarded and increases in
     frequency and accuracy. Then reinforcement is reduced until the
     behavior is learned and no longer needs reinforcement.
   Chaining is a means of training in complex sequences of behaviors.
     Generally it starts with the end behavior in mind and works
     backwards. Animal training may begin as simply as rewarding the
     killer whale for swimming over a stick lying in the bottom of the pool.
     The whale learns that the stick is significant and swims over it more
     determinately. Finally the stick is raised gradually until the whale
     begins leaping out of the water to get over the bar and receive a
     reward. Animals (and people) have been trained to do incredibly
     complex behaviors in such a painstaking manner of reward. The
     behaviors serve as triggers for the following behaviors, producing a
     chain of behaviors only rewarded at the final effort.
   Discrimination learning occurs when people/ animals learn a
     behavior in response to a stimulus in the environment. So when the
     pigeon saw a light go on, it knew to peck the key and it would be
     rewarded. If the light was off, there was no point in pecking the key.
    Discriminative stimuli are the environmental signals to respond.
     People respond to a variety of environmental signals with predictable
     behavior- stop on red, go on green. When they don’t, there is havoc.
     The problem may come if the discriminative stimulus is similar to
     other stimuli in the environment, producing confusion. Dogs were
     triggered to experience severe neurosis by training them to salivate in
     response to a circle, meaning they would get food, and not salivate to
     an oval, which offered no food (and in some experiments was
     associated with shock). As the oval and circle became more alike, the
     dogs were sent into whimpering, crying, and withdrawing to the
     corner of the cage when they couldn’t discriminate what might happen
     next. This can be used to understand hypervigilance in abuse children,
     anxiety and depression in victims of abuse, as they try to scan the
     environment for cues to what may happen to them.
    Generalization occurs when discriminative stimuli resemble other
     stimuli in the environment, and the animal responds to the other
     stimuli as if they were discriminative. This principle of generalized
     response allows us to learn behaviors and spread their usefulness into
     a variety of venues. So we don’t have to learn new behaviors every
     time we are faced with a new environment. This also explains much
     personality stability, as people act similarly across situations and
     differences in responses to other people and circumstances.

Schedules of reinforcement are the contingencies that are set up between
response and reinforcement. Even lower animals can discover the
contingencies of reinforcement and behave accordingly. Penguins at the zoo
come to the door for feeding on a regular time schedule, although the
penguins aren’t reading clocks!
    Continuous reinforcement schedule is the best way to train in a new
      behavior- every response is reinforced quickly. They produce quick
      learning, but rapid extinction if the reward is discontinued.
    Partial reinforcement schedules are various ways of reinforcing
      responses in order to produce more long-term learning/ behaving.
      Usually these schedules are put in place after continuous
      reinforcement has established the behavior- it’s called leaning out the
      reinforcement schedule.
         o Fixed ratio reinforce after a fixed number of responses. The
             faster the responses are emitted, the more reinforcements given.
             This can work people to death if they are paid on a piecework
             basis. It’s also the source of workaholism in doctors, lawyers,
           and other people who get paid according to how many hours
           they bill.
         o Variable ratio is a reinforcement pattern that reinforces around
           an average of responses. It produces a high rate of response and
           is more resistant to extinction than FR. So the pigeon may have
           to peck 5 times, 15 times, 45 times, but the average is 25 times.
         o Fixed interval is reinforcement based on time- the pigeon will
           get a reward after 15 minutes, as soon as he pecks after that
           time. This produces a scalloped response pattern, with few
           responses after a reinforcement, but many as the time is up.
           This is what students do when they know there is an exam
           every Friday- they begin studying on Thursday night!
         o Variable interval reinforces around an average time, so the
           scalloped effect smoothes out a bit, producing more regular
           responses. (when the teacher uses regular, but unexpected pop

Applications of Behavioral Techniques
   Therapy
         o Behavior modification applies learning principles to change an
           undesirable behavior.
         o Functional analysis is first made to identify the stimuli and
           reinforcers that keep this negative behavior in place. What are
           the environmental triggers for the behavior? It may be hard to
           find the specific triggers and rewards that have produced the
           behavior, but sometimes it is very clear- when a child cries in
           the store for candy and the mother gives him candy to get him
           to stop crying, he learns he can always get candy at the store if
           he will just cry repeatedly. Many parents don’t realize the
           power of intermittent reinforcement in producing undesirable
           behavior (even in their partners!) Then an intervention is
           planned- it may require changing the situation to eliminate the
           trigger, reinforcing more desirable behavior instead, or ignoring
           the behavior to begin extinction.
         o Token economies are using tokens for desired reinforcers.
           Tokens can stand for privileges, money, food, freedom, but they
           are manageable means of reward in a challenging environment,
           such as the classroom. They also allow for a menu of rewards to
           be used, which are variably appealing to numbers of children.
           The downside of using this controlling reward system is that
            children begin behaving only to gain reward, not because they
            want to learn a behavior or get good at a skill. It depletes the
            internal incentive to learn. These techniques are especially
            useful for people who don’t use language or respond to more
            social rewards- people with Alzheimer’s’, autism, language
            disability. It can produce rapid success in overcoming habits
            such as overeating, smoking, etc.
    Education- Skinner developed a teaching machine to present material
     in small increments, with rapid answers available to get feedback for
     one’s responses. He called it programmed instruction, which could
     allow a student to develop skills at her own pace. The problem is
     Skinner’s workbooks were incredibly boring and children hated them
     after awhile. The learning goals were so small in increments that the
     children quit before making a lot of progress. He never intended them
     to replace teachers or to deal with complex ideas of learning, just to
     learn specific skills. Today they have morphed into computer
     programs to aid students in learning skills in math or writing, reading.

Radical Behaviorism and Personality Theory
       Skinner’s theory as applied to personality was criticized as
insufficiently oriented toward human cognition, or inherited temperament.
Social relationships are very complex and difficult to understand according
to simple learning principles. The other criticism of Skinners’ theory has to
do with the idea that people are truly not free to make their own life choices,
as they are just a bundle of learned responses. Skinner said that a society
could be developed according to learning principles which allowed
maximum freedom of members, who had been trained to voluntarily behave
as good citizens. This was the concept described in Walden Two. Some
communities were actually developed on Skinner’s principles, but they
rarely lasted long. Language was also an area of study for Skinner, but it
caused great controversy with other researchers. Skinner called language
“verbal behavior” and simply thought it was a component operant behavior.
Language and thought were simply combinations of operants. Chomsky
disagreed, saying there were cultural universals in the acquisition of
language that showed it was an outcome of a specific part of the brain
designed for language in humans. Children even produced unique words to
express themselves, words which had not been used by anyone around them,
but which were meaningful and understandable to others. These unique
expressions could not have been learned through reinforcement. As a
personality theory, Skinner’s theory is really only useful as an alternative to
other internal personality theories.

Psychological Behaviorism: Staats unlike Skinner, translated personality
concepts into behavioral language. His psychological behaviorism
incorporates biological influences, as well as social interaction, child
development and measurement of traits. He did agree with Skinner that
personality is built by learning, even more so than biology.
       Arthur Staats was born in New York in 1924 of Jewish parents only
recently in the US from Russia. He had a generally happy childhood, and he
read a lot and was very athletic. His family was liberal and progressive, so
he developed a world view that often separated him from others. This
difference contributed to his original thought about the nature of human
personality. He acquired a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at UCLA. He
began teaching at Arizona State University, where he began his own human
behavioral program. His discoveries applied to behavior modification,
behavior therapy, and behavioral assessment. Much of his work has been
incorporated in cognitive behavior therapy & personality assessment. He
married his assistant, who collaborated on his research program, and they
had a daughter in 1960. He raised his daughter and son according to training
procedures developed in his lab. He was the developer of time-out
procedures and token reinforcement. His theory is called unified positivism,
which combines findings from biology and philosophy and social sciences.

Reinforcement – since behavior is maintained by reinforcement, he
developed 2 interventions to help produce more advantageous behaviors:
    Time-out procedure is the removal of a child from a reinforcing
      environment. This is commonly used today in parenting and school,
      since it is effective in reducing problematic behavior without using
      punitive measures.
    Token reinforcement program
    The other concept he developed had to do with the idea that rewards
      produce positive emotional responses and punishers produce negative
      emotional responses. So anything we feel emotional about can provide
      incentives to behave in a certain way, or avoid specific environments.
      So our own emotionality can be rewarding and determine behavior.
      This concept made it sensible to include classical conditioning in
      behaviorism. The theory became broader & more informative.
Basic Behavioral Repertoires (BBRs) are behavioral chains that are built
early in life, and continue for decades into adulthood. So behavioral
repertoires lead to different behaviors. The most important repertoires are
stepping stones for later, more complex learning. Staats did believe that
personality (BBRs) is a cause of behavior. So, like the psychoanalytic
theorists, Staats believed early human learning has special importance for
personality. Learning is long-term, cumulative and complex, resulting from
combinations of behaviors. If the basics aren’t learned early in life, later,
more complex learning might not occur. Interventions can remediate early
learning failures, & this can include social deficits. These BBRs come in 3
    The Emotional-Motivation Repertoire includes emotional responses
       to various stimuli. Some responses are built in by biology, such as
       positive emotional responses to food and negative responses to pain.
       Other emotional connections to other stimuli are made through
       classical conditioning. Fears & phobias are also developed in this
       way. Attachment to parents is formed through associations of parent
       with the comfort of food, holding, soft stroking. Then the parent may
       display displeasure, with frowning, yelling, and a child will associate
       negative feelings with whatever produced that reaction in the parent.
       So emotional learning all forms the emotional-motivational repertoire,
       which will partly determine behavior in a variety of life situations in
       the future. People approach pleasant stimuli and avoid negative,
       painful stimuli, based on past learning. The stronger the emotion, the
       stronger the tendency to approach or avoid. Once a parent’s frown is
       associated with negative feelings, the child will learn from the
       parent’s instruction. An abusive parent will teach maladaptive
       response patterns. So all the varieties of parenting styles will produce
       children with varied personalities, hobbies, interests and talents. The
       unique pattern of biological abilities and environmental triggers and
       reinforcers make for individual differences. Values developed early in
       life predispose people toward different careers, or even prejudices. So
       early basic emotional-motivational responses build the foundation for
       mature behavior.
    The Language-Cognitive Repertoire recognizes that language is
       primarily cognitive. One’s thoughts and self-directed speech can
       direct behavior, as does one’s expectations and biases. Children, who
       are encouraged to visualize words while they read, have an easier time
       understanding what they read. These children also develop stronger
     skills in reading and math. Once language for objects is in place, more
     abstract concepts can build on that basis.
    The Sensory-Motor Repertoire has to do with bodily-kinesthetic
     skill building. Body movements even reflect our beliefs about
     masculinity and femininity, and personal confidence. Practice can
     build competent behavior, not just in the athletic arena. Early motor
     development is clearly influenced by learning, as in some cultures, the
     parents engage in a complex physical routine in order to develop
     independent locomotion at an early age. This is thought to be a
     survival skill for people who live in threatening environments.

Situations can affect behavior in 3 ways (three function learning theory, or
A-R-D theory): Situations can arouse feelings and attitudes (A), having been
associated with happiness or threat in the past. They can provide
reinforcements (R) such as positive attention of peers, or an audience. They
can direct behavior (D) by programming the next logical step at each point
of learning.

Psychological Adjustment requires much healthy learning. People who
show maladjustment have failed to learn the basics of social functioning,
personal responsibility, empathy toward others, etc. Deficits can lead toward
pathologies: phobias, emotional illnesses such as anxiety or depression,
autistic behaviors relating to affection and physical connections to others,
language deficits for those with mental retardation or schizophrenia. One of
the important aspects of developing ideally is learning to make positive,
helpful self-statements. This relates to forming a positive self-concept,
lightening one’s mood in the face of trials, balancing reasonable
expectations while learning new things, and even self-reinforcement for
difficult efforts toward improvement. Social learning can include
understanding one’s effects on others, and learning to share and take cues
from other people re: appropriate behavior. Other social behavior repertoires
lead to healthy relationships with others, intimacy, successful work, and
even leadership skills. Even the defense mechanisms that people use are
learned. Defense mechanisms that don’t include learning from past failures
can preclude any useful adaptation from failures or difficulties, and they
won’t help the person improve in his weak areas. Perfectionism can be seen
as an unhealthy form of learning unreasonable expectations, rigidity around
rules, or even about cleanliness. So the positive aspect of this is if the
pathological behaviors can be learned, they can be unlearned through
appropriate behavioral internventions.
The Nature-Nurture Question according to Staats is not a question-
evolution gave us the ability to learn in new environments so we can
survive. We adapt through learning and biology made this possible.
Learning can influence biology, as it can restructure synaptic connections in
the brain, develop our bodies, & give us skills to live longer lives. Learning
is stored in biological representations, so biology impacts rate of learning
and storage of new information and skill patterns. Some biologically based
disorders (Down’s syndrome) can impact the ability to learn, but they can
learn with the right environment. Staats described many specific ways of
interacting with children to enhance their intellect, with counting games and
language usage. He demonstrated how children from deprived backgrounds
can develop improved reading, writing and math skills and show an average
IQ gain of 12 points with the right interventions. He believed temperamental
difficulties could be reduced with the right parenting skills. He even showed
how cuter babies received more affection and positive interactions with
parents than less attractive babies. This is certainly something that can be
changed once noted.
Personality Assessment
      The Act-Frequency Approach to Personality Measurement was
        developed out of the idea that behaviors could be used to measure
        personality. The approach uses systematic procedures for assessing
        the frequency of common, prototypical behaviors to infer certain
        personality traits. This approach is more accurate than using people’s
        own self-reports, as they are obviously more subjective.
      Contributions of Behaviorism to Personality Theory and
        Measurement – these theorists remind us that we cannot understand
        personality separate from the environment in which the person is
        behaving. People learn to behave in specific situations, and behavior
        differs in various environments. Staats’ theory is more
        comprehensive and unified than Skinner’s radical behaviorism.