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B.F. Skinner was an influential 20th Century Behavioral Psychologist. His beliefs were people internal needs were not important and their behavior could be controlled using positive and negative reinforcement. Although Reinforcement theory was used for many decades by psychologists, its weaknesses were the cause of its reevaluation in the world of psychology. Reinforcement theory forced psychologist to focus solely on behavior instead of the mental and emotional aspect of psychology.
Reinforcement theory motivation was introduced in 1957 by B.F. Skinner. Majority of his thoughts on reinforcement theory were inspired by J.B. Watson. John Broadus Watson published an article titled, “Psychology as a behaviorist view’s it.” The goal of this article was to teach behavioral psychologists how to predict and control behavior. It stated psychology must abandon consciousness and focus solely on behavior. Watson believed Psychology should be a science. Science data should be public and if it could not be observed, then technically, it should not be considered in science. The conscious could not be science because it could not be observed. Watson work determined what should be considered natural science and only observable phenomena should be studied. The conscious mind should not be considered. After releasing the article with high fan fair, it became known as the ‘behaviorist manifesto” and the basic doctrine for behaviorism. J.B. Watson historic work would find its place in psychology for decades to come.
Like many of the articles reviewed in behaviorism, there is no scientific data supporting the consciousness. The difficulty with behaviorism is the inability to differentiate between human and animal, reality and the lab. The complexity of humans is not studied in behaviorism. J.B. Watson built barriers when he developed psychology as a natural science. Watson’s behaviorism theory failed to acknowledge experimental psychology that were documented decades prior by Wundt. Wilhelm Wundt is considered the father of psychology because he opened the first experimental psychology lab in 1879. His experiments focused on attention and the workings of the mind. Watson’s Behaviorism attracted people of different backgrounds and made national headlines, but the downside of the media attention was the academic establishment within psychology. The theory was well received by psychologist but was rarely questioned. The rival within psychology was should it be considered natural science as described by Watson or should the mind be studied as determined by Wilhelm Wundt?
Reinforcement theory has forced psychologists to look for alternate means to understand behavior and how it relates to environment. One of many alternatives are called the three basic concepts; allocation, induction and contingency. The method behind this concept is behavior is choice driven. Allocation captures the significance of the choice and measure of behavior. Allocation can be changed based on correlation and induction. Induction is the phenomena, which is caused by terminal behavior. Terminal behavior is behavior that is induced by food or phylogenetically Important Event (PIE) in a specific situation. Induction is what drives behavior. The similarities between induction and stimulus control are the relationship between induced behavior and the induced event. The same behavior was not observed every time for the event. Contingency is what connects behavior with environmental events. The theory behind allocation, induction and contingency is that if some stimulus control were the result of phylogeny, then induction and stimulus control would have similarities. Then PIE would be a discriminative stimulus. Research also supports the idea that stimuli correlated with PIEs become PIE-related conditional inducers. After evaluating reinforcement theory in its present state, researchers are implying psychologist are observing behavior in a “molar view.”
Molar and molecular views are theories that are not backed by data. There are no experiments that can differentiate between them. Molecular views are discrete responses and connection between events. The molecular view was designed to explain abrupt changes in behaviors that were short term. Molecular view does not indicate changes in behavior based on decision. Molar view is based on extended activities and short-term effects of one event. Molar view is straightforward and direct, focusing on one behavior. The bases of the named theories do not paint the picture necessary to understand behavior in its entirety. Behaviorist never evaluated behavior as a continuous act that changes over time. I may react a certain way because of how I am feeling. My feelings and what I am thinking will dictate my behavior.
Skinner’s idea for reinforcement theory came from his belief of that there is a connection between order and proximity, response and reinforcer. The issue with his belief is reinforcement does not always reinforce. The theory is perfect in the lab but does not apply to everyday life. It is not a theory that continues to receive the same results because it does not incorporate the thought process behind the behavior. After reenacting Skinners Superstition study, Staddon and Simmelhag received various results. The rats behaved differently when the food arrived. The behavior was not the same every time. During the research of this concept, the allocation of behavior changed based on induction and contingency. The addition of an inducer such as food increased activity such as pecking in pigeons. Certain environmental factors determined the change in behavior such as electric shock and the removal of food. Rats and monkeys would become aggressive after being shocked. The shock and food removal were the inducers of their behavior. I believe this is a common reaction and is not the cause of conditioning. I look at this research from a human perspective because psychology is a business that involves people. If a human is shocked every day, there would be fear and aggression because of the constant worry it will happen again. This is what I would consider the conscious portion of psychology.
Evalyn Segal introduced induction in 1972 and described it as the “Stimulating the occurrence of” and “bringing about.” She believed factors such as electric shock and food were inducers but were not considered “reinforcers” because they have no temporal relation between stimulus and response. The goal was to prevent narrow association with elicitation. Elicitation is the assumption of a close temporal relationship between stimulus and response.
Skinner studies have contradicted its evidence. In his Superstition paper published in 1948, Skinner claimed he used adventitious reinforcement to recondition the response of hopping side to side. After evaluating the claims, it was determined the hopping occurred after the food and not prior to. This is an example of induction and not reinforcement as considered. This also supports the claim of PIE; a PIE induces a PIE related event or activity. For a behavior to be reinforced, it must be conducted first. The best explanation is, if food is put in the same location every day, the rat will go to that same area everyday to retrieve the food or continue looking for food in that specific location. The behavior to search for food is not reinforced because the rat had the instinct to search for food.
Behaviorism has taken many forms from reinforcement theory to radical behaviorism, but the evolution has also developed perfectionism. The dual process model of perfectionism was proposed by Patrick Slade and R. Glynn Owens in 1998. The process was used to determine the different effects of perfectionism and why they occur. There are similarities between reinforcement theory and perfectionism. Reinforcement theory has positive and negative whereas perfectionism has adaptive and maladaptive. Perfectionism is categorized by setting unrealistically high standards and has caused negative effects psychologically and physically. Perfectionism has two categories, adaptive and maladaptive. Perfectionism is studied based on cognitive, behavioral and affective factors. Hollender (1965) described perfectionism as, “as an essentially negative personality trait involving an unjustifiable demand on oneself or others for a superior quality of performance that is in excess to what is required in any situation.” Perfectionist look at their failures rather than the overall picture. The success of the event is ignored because failure overshadows the event. One unit of measure for perfectionism is the Almost perfect scale (APS). The APS evaluates maladaptive and adaptive factors of perfectionism in three subscales, discrepancy, standard and order. The first scale, the Discrepancy subscale determines and is critical in determining maladaptive components. It measures a how a person perceives their ability or failure to meet expected standards. The Standards and Order subscales determine adaptive components of perfectionism. Adaptive perfectionist has high standards and score low on the discrepancy subscale. Maladaptive perfectionist has high standards and score high on the discrepancy subscale. Maladaptive perfectionist has greater level of feeling inferior and were determined to have low self-esteems. They also have higher levels of anxiety compared to adaptive perfectionist. Adaptive perfectionist has higher self-esteems and are satisfied with their life. Perfectionism has been diagnosed in people with depression, anxiety disorders and eating disorders. Perfectionism is a transdiagnostic disorder that can be the cause of other disorders or the severity of the disorder. Researchers are continuing to establish guidelines to differentiate between perfectionism and adjustment disorder (Lo, A., & Abbott, M. J. (2013).
Perfectionism and its consequences are dependent on the severity of the disorder. Someone who has high standards will be eager to accomplish their goals and will be high achievers; which is never a bad thing. The negative consequences of perfectionism are dangerous when it becomes unhealthy such as eating disorders. In the case of an adolescent who does not consider themselves the standard beauty may suffer from maladaptive perfectionism. This can cause depression and eating disorders.
I believe the “whole person” concept should be considered in psychology. Reinforcement theory is amazing for animals because they can be trained but the human aspect is unpredictable. Human behavior is dictated by the conscious and unconscious. The human mind is complex, and behavior can be dictated by it. To think of the mind as an empty shell is a bit absurd and can prevent people from getting help from the very place they need it most, psychologist. When I think of psychology, depression comes to mind. Depression is a battle many veterans suffer from due to military service. The first sign of depression are changes in behavior. If psychologist used reinforcement theory in this case, it would be determined the behavior changed because the veteran was in a new environment. There would be minimal initiative to determine the thinking of the veteran or the changes in the environment to cause the change in behavior. This practice can not only be neglect but deadly considering an average of 22 veterans commit suicide daily.
Chen, L. H., Kee, Y. H., & Tsai, Y. (2009). An examination of the dual model of perfectionism and adolescent athlete burnout: A short-term longitudinal research. Social Indicators Research, 91(2), 189-201. doi:, M. C., & Hyland, M. E. (2012). History and philosophy of psychology. West Sussex, UK: Wiley.

I will use this resource as the background for reinforcement theory. I will discuss the background of reinforcement theory such as Edward Thorndike’s “Law of Effect” and B.F Skinners “operant of Conditioning.” I believe this will give my audience an introduction to my subject. I will also discuss the thought process behind the theory. I will use Chapter 7, Behaviorism, for most of my research on the background of reinforcement theory.
Baum, W. M. (2012). RETHINKING REINFORCEMENT: ALLOCATION, INDUCTION, AND CONTINGENCY. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 97(1), 101-24. Retrieved from HYPERLINK “” argument for this research study is “Reinforcer does not reinforce.” This article debunks B.F. Skinner’s order and proximity theory as it applies to everyday life. Order and proximity between response and reinforcer were the defining factor in Skinner’s reinforcement theory. The research takes portions of Skinner’s research and explains behavior in an alternate way such as Allocation, Induction and correlation. For example, the concept of Induction has similarities to Skinner’s Stimuli Control. The author concluded Induction and stimulus control will occur in life history and phylogeny. I will use this article to discuss what researchers have to say about reinforcement theory. This will assist in my, “They say” portion.
Harzem, P. (2004). BEHAVIORISM FOR NEW PSYCHOLOGY: WHAT WAS WRONG WITH BEHAVIORISM AND WHAT IS WRONG WITH IT NOW. Behavior and Philosophy, 32(1), 5-12. Retrieved from chose this research articles/historical review because of the focus on John B. Watson. Watson was the founding father of behaviorism. His article “Psychology as the behaviorist views it” is considered the behaviorist manifesto. B.F. Skinner’s Reinforcement theory was inspired by Watson. Watson taught Psychology should be a science. Science data should be public and if it could not be observed, then technically, it should not be considered in science. The conscious could not be science because it could not be observed. Watson and Skinner ignored the many facets associated with psychology such as feelings and thoughts. This article tackles these missing links in behaviorism. I will use this article for my history of Reinforcement theory and the issues researchers have with behaviorism.
Lo, A., & Abbott, M. J. (2013). Review of the theoretical, empirical, and clinical status of adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism. Behavior Change, 30(2), 96-116. Retrieved from picked this research study because it was interesting to learn the extent of Skinner’s reinforcement theory. This article discusses the dual process model of perfectionism. This model was proposed by Patrick Slade and R. Glynn Owens. There are similarities between reinforcement theory and perfectionism. Reinforcement theory has positive and negative whereas perfectionism has adaptive and maladaptive. I will use this article to discuss the emotional disturbance associated with reinforcement theory and perfectionism. This will be used in the “I say” portion of the essay. The author speaks of the negatives of perfectionism such as emotional duress. I believe when you ignore the emotional aspect of psychology and only focus on the behavior, the person will eventually revert to the unwanted behavior when there is no reward. I will use this source as my argument into the lasting of effects of Reinforcement theory
Erozkan, A., Karakas, Y., Ata, S., ; Ayberk, A. (2011). THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PERFECTIONISM AND DEPRESSION IN TURKISH HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. Social Behavior and Personality, 39(4), 451-464. Retrieved from chose this experiment because it focuses on high school students in Turkey. The relationship between depression levels and perfectionism were tested using Pearson Correlation and analysis. boys and girls were tested in several categories based on subdimensions of perfectionism. The study showed students concerned with mistakes were more depressed than students not concerned with perfect standards. The experiment also mention perfectionism being related to the development of depression. I will use this source as an argument in the “I Say” portion of the essay. It builds on my 4th resource and shows how Reinforcement theory has evolved over the years. It will also build on my argument of studying behavior and emotions.

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