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The operant conditioning of human motor behavior

Verplanck, W S (1956) The operant conditioning of human motor behavior. [Journal (Paginated)]

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Abstract

A very large body of experimental results have accumulated in the field of operant, or instrumental, conditioning of the rat, the pigeon, and of other experimental animals. The application to human behavior of the laws generated by such research is most often done by the use of theory. An alternative method is to demonstrate that the manipulation of classes of empirically defined variables that produce specific and highly characteristic changes in the behavior of small experimental animals in Skinner boxes produce similar changes in the behavior of college students. This paper reports procedures for the direct application of the variables defining the paradigm for operant conditioning to human behavior and shows that human beings act very much indeed like experimental animals when they are subjected to the same experimental treatments. It suggests that direct application of conditioning principles to some categories of human behavior may be justified. The procedures are simple and they may be followed by anyone, with a minimum of equipment. That it is possible to condition human motor behavior will surprise few who are concerned with behavior theory. Nevertheless, it has not always been clear what behaviors will act as "responses," what events will prove to be "reinforcing stimuli," or exactly what procedures would most readily yield reproducible results. This paper describes methods that have been worded out for easy and rapid operant conditioning of motor behavior in humans, states characteristic findings, and reports sample results. Developed in a series of exploratory experiments in an elementary laboratory course in psychology, the methods may have a wider utility.

Item Type:Journal (Paginated)
Subjects:Psychology > Behavioral Analysis
Biology > Animal Behavior
Psychology > Comparative Psychology
Psychology > Evolutionary Psychology
ID Code:604
Deposited By:Verplank, William
Deposited On:04 Mar 1998
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

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