Summary of the Application of B. F. Skinner’s Theory of Behavioral Analysis


No one contributed to the beginnings of scientific psychology and to a technology of education and training through psychology as B. F. Skinner. His theory of “radical behaviorism” has influenced education, culture, leadership, research and many other aspects of life. It is considered radical since it expands behavioral principles to processes within the organism which are in contrast to methodological behaviorism thus he is ideologically against introspection being regarded as behavior and the concept of self-reinforcement because domestic states are never considered the basis of behavior, and this signifies that phenomena must be noticeable in the individual experiencing them. He also challenges teachers and evokes researchers, in the application of the study of language, to conduct a more thorough analysis of the role of stimulus control on emergent verbal behavior to identify more effective procedures for evoking untrained relations. Skinner’s scrutiny of behavior does not just comprise the authority of a distinct instance of reinforcement, but also the effect of specific program of reinforcement that spreads over a long period.

Behavioral Analysis is crucial to Education Development

Thyer, B. A. (2007). On The Possible InflSuence of Bertrand Russell on B. F. Skinner’s Approach to Education. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40 (3), 587.

The journal article is a conceptual comparison between the views of Bertrand Russell and the approach of B. F. Skinner to reinforcement with regards to education. He further asserts that skinner’s approach must have been influenced by Russell’s as they bear great similarities. Human learning is influenced by experiences arranged by other people. Rational arguments, rewards, threats, bribes and force are used not only to promote learning but also to change the behavior of people (Pierce & Cheney, 2004). Reinforcement is a fundamental conception in Behaviorism, because it is viewed as a vital instrument in the determination and management of behavior. The author quotes Russell, by offering a case of a school situation, where he stresses the importance of the school authority having a specific hall for learners who are unwilling to learn.

An ordinary fallacy that is in existence is that unconstructive reinforcement is identical to punishment. This mistaken belief is widespread, and is generally established even in academic discourse of Skinner. Apparently, while constructive reinforcement strengthens conduct by the appliance of some occurrences (i.e., praising an individual after some good behavior is performed), unconstructive reinforcement can strengthen behavior by exclusion or avoiding specific event.(for instance, the practice of sending those students who do not want to learn away from class).

Teachers should be taught more effective ways of teaching which are accompanied by continuous, interval and (or) ratio reinforcement. The activities designed rules and procedures in a class or school, lesson materials and exercises, even informal peer interactions are all part of the contingencies of student behavior (Vargas, 2009).

There is a distinction between Thinking and Behavior

Overskeid, G. (2000). Why do we think? Consequences of regarding thinking as behavior. The Journal of Psychology, 134 (4), 357-374.

In this article, Overskied shows the consequences of regarding thinking as behavior.It isbroadly defined as “problem solving involving ideational activity”. There are several factors influencing people’s ways of thinking and drawing conclusions but there is lack of systematic accounting of the factors that initiate, terminate, and change both thinking itself and its various modes. If there is a failure in attempting to find and analyze the stimuli that reinforce, punish, and control thinking, then we exclude important factors that make us start thinking in the first place.

He stresses that cognitive psychology has explained how people think but has failed to uncover why people think. B. F. Skinner on the other hand states through his theory of radical behaviorism that “what is felt or introspectively observed is not some non-physical world of consciousness, mind, or mental life but the observer’s own body”. The elements of thought are sensations and feelings and are described to the extent to which they bare the attributes of pleasantness, excitement or strain (Hergenhahn, 2008) ; which do not necessarily constitute behavior.

In spite of theoretical acceptance, the phenomenon of thinking thus relates to the theory of radical behaviorist research-first, because the behavior in question cannot be observed directly. Second, no existing methodology can produce results that behavior analysts would regard as convincing evidence for the claim that private events may cause other behavior. Thus, thinking cannot be regarded as behavior even though others claim ‘self-reinforcement’ because self-reinforcement can be a result of the environment one is exposed to.

Functional Analysis of Verbal Behavior

Grow, L. L. & Kodak, T. (2010). Recent Research on Emergent Verbal Behavior: Clinical Applications and Future Directions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43 (4), 775-8.

The article evaluates the functional independence of verbal operants. It outlines the fact that teaching of children with disabilities focuses on four verbal operants ,these are mand, tact, intraverbal and echoic .These verbal operants are part of the six elementary operants explained by Skinner ,the two others being ‘audience relation’ and ‘textual’.

The mand is evoked by an establishing operation and is maintained by access to a response-specific reinforcer. The tact is under the discriminative control of a nonverbal stimulus and produces generalized reinforcers. A response that has point-to- point correspondence with a preceding vocal stimulus is an echoic (e.g., saying “fish” after someone says “fish”). An intraverbal lacks point-to-point correspondence with an antecedent verbal discriminative stimulus (SD). Answering, “a car” following the verbal stimulus “What do you ride in?” is an example of an intraverbal response.

Verbal repertoires are often taught using transfer of stimulus control. Basic research suggests that stimulus blocking may occur during transfer of stimulus control. Stimulus blocking may impede the acquisition of new verbal operants by blocking a new stimulus from acquiring stimulus control” (Cihon, 2007). Therefore, another possible avenue of future research involves an examination of the influence of stimulus control on emergent verbal behavior. Numerous behavior analyst since the time of Skinner have feel that the basic verbal relations should be re-assessed to deal with the challenges in encompassing a variety of responses into the categorization systems of the basic analysis. In this sense, the functional scrutiny of behavior should not be described in the same manner as the functional assessment due to the fact that they do not encompass the express control of autonomous variables, and the application of experimental models (Greer, 2002).


Cihon, T. M. (2007). A Comparison of Transfer of Stimulus Control Or Multiple Control on the Acquisition of Verbal Operants in Young Children. Ohio: Ohio State University.

Greer, R. D. (2002). Designing Teaching Strategies: An Applied Behavior Analysis Systems Approach. San Diego: Academic Press.

Grow, L. L., & Kodak, T. (2010). Recent Research On Emergent Verbal Behavior: Clinical Applications And Future Directions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis , 43 (4), 775-8.

Hergenhahn, B. R. (2008). An Introduction to the History of Psychology. Belmont : Cengage Learning.

Overskeid, G. (2000). Why do we think? Consequences of regarding thinking as behavior. The Journal of Psychology , 134 (4), 357-374.

Pierce, W. D., & Cheney, C. D. (2004). Behavior Analysis and Learning (3rd Edition ed.). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Thyer, B. A. (2007). On The Possible Influence Of Bertrand Russell On B. F. Skinner’s Approach To Education. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis , 40 (3), 587.

Vargas, J. S. (2009). Behavior Analysis for Effective Teaching. New York : Taylor & Francis.

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