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Operant conditioning chamber

An operant  conditioning  chamber (also known as the

Skinner box) is a laboratory apparatus used to study animal
behavior. The operant conditioning chamber was created by
B. F. Skinner while he was a graduate student at Harvard
University. It may have been inspired by Jerzy Konorski's
studies. It is used to study both operant conditioning and
classical conditioning.[1][2]

Skinner created the operant chamber as a variation of the

puzzle box originally created by Edward Thorndike.[3]

Skinner box
Research impact
Commercial applications
Skinner box
See also
External links

An operant conditioning chamber permits experimenters to
study behavior conditioning (training) by teaching a subject
animal to perform certain actions (like pressing a lever) in
response to specific stimuli, such as a light or sound signal.
When the subject correctly performs the behavior, the
chamber mechanism delivers food or another reward. In
Skinner box with 2 respond levers, 2 cue lights, 1
some cases, the mechanism delivers a punishment for electrified floor, 1 house light and 1 speaker are
incorrect or missing responses. For instance, to test how above the cage
operant conditioning works for certain invertebrates, such as
fruit flies, psychologists use a device known as a "heat box".
Essentially this takes up the same form as the Skinner box, but the box is composed of two sides: one side that can
undergo temperature change and the other that does not. As soon as the invertebrate crosses over to the side that can
undergo a temperature change, the area is heated up. Eventually, the invertebrate will be conditioned to stay on the
side that does not undergo a temperature change. This goes to the extent that even when the temperature is turned to
its lowest point, the fruit fly will still refrain from approaching that area of the heat box.[4] These types of apparatuses
allow experimenters to perform studies in conditioning and training through reward/punishment mechanisms.

The structure forming the shell of a chamber is a box large enough to easily accommodate the animal being used as a
subject. (Commonly used model animals include rodents—usually lab rats—pigeons, and primates). It is often sound-
proof and light-proof to avoid distracting stimuli.

Operant chambers have at least one operandum (or "manipulandum"), and often two or more, that can automatically
detect the occurrence of a behavioral response or action. Typical operanda for primates and rats are response levers; if
the subject presses the lever, the opposite end moves and closes a switch that is monitored by a computer or other
programmed device. Typical operanda for pigeons and other birds are response keys with a switch that closes if the
bird pecks at the key with sufficient force. The other minimal requirement of a conditioning chamber is that it has a
means of delivering a primary reinforcer (a reward, such as food, etc.) or unconditioned stimulus like food (usually
pellets) or water. It can also register the delivery of a conditioned reinforcer, such as an LED (see Jackson &
Hackenberg 1996 in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior for example) signal as a "token".

Despite such a simple configuration, one operandum and one feeder, it is possible to investigate many psychological
phenomena. Modern operant conditioning chambers typically have many operanda, like many response levers, two or
more feeders, and a variety of devices capable of generating many stimuli, including lights, sounds, music, figures, and
drawings. Some configurations use an LCD panel for the computer generation of a variety of visual stimuli.

Some operant chambers can also have electrified nets or floors so that shocks can be given to the animals; or lights of
different colors that give information about when the food is available. Although the use of shock is not unheard of,
approval may be needed in countries that regulate experimentation on animals.

Research impact
Operant conditioning chambers have become common in a variety of research disciplines including behavioral
pharmacology. The results of these experiments inform many disciplines outside of psychology, such as behavioral

An urban legend spread concerning Skinner putting his daughter through an experiment such as this, causing great
controversy. His daughter later debunked this.[5]

Commercial applications
Slot machines and online games are sometimes cited[6] as examples of human devices that use sophisticated operant
schedules of reinforcement to reward repetitive actions.[7]

Social networking services such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have been identified as using the techniques, critics
use terms such as Skinnerian Marketing[8] for the way the companies use the ideas to keep users engaged and using
the service.

Gamification, the technique of using game design elements in non-game contexts, has also been described as using
operant conditioning and other behaviorist techniques to encourage desired user behaviors.[9]

Skinner box
Skinner is noted to have said that he did not want to be an eponym.[10] Further, he believed that Clark Hull and his
Yale students coined the expression: Skinner stated he did not use the term himself, and went so far as to ask Howard
Hunt to use "lever box" instead of "Skinner box" in a published document.[11]

See also
Radical behaviorism

1. R.Carlson, Neil (2009). Psychology-the science of behavior. U.S:
Pearson Education Canada; 4th edition. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-205-
2. Krebs, John R. (1983). "Animal behaviour: From Skinner box to
the field". Nature. 304 (5922): 117. Bibcode:1983Natur.304..117K
( Students using a Skinner box
doi:10.1038/304117a0 (
PMID 6866102 (
3. Schacter, Daniel L.; Gilbert, Daniel T.; Wegner, Daniel M.; Nock,
Matthew K. (2014). "B. F. Skinner: The Role of Reinforcement and
Punishment". Psychology (3rd ed.). Macmillan. pp. 278–80.
ISBN 978-1-4641-5528-4.
4. Brembs, Björn. "Operant conditioning in invertebrates" (http://linki Current
Opinion in Neurobiology. 13 (6): 710–717.
doi:10.1016/j.conb.2003.10.002 (
5. Mikkelson, David (11 March 2014). "B.F. Skinner Raised His
Daughter in a Skinner Box?" (
one-man-and-a-baby-box/). Fact Check. Archived (h
eck/one-man-and-a-baby-box/) from the original on 5 May 2018.
Retrieved 5 May 2018.
6. Hopson, J. (April 2001). "Behavioral game design" (https://schola Gamasutra.
7. Dennis Coon (2005). Psychology: A modular approach to mind
and behavior (
C&pg=PA278&lpg=PA278). Thomson Wadsworth. pp. 278–279.
ISBN 0-534-60593-1.
8. Davidow, Bill. "Skinner Marketing: We're the Rats, and Facebook
Likes Are the Reward" (
s-are-the-reward/276613/). The Atlantic. The Atlantic. Retrieved
1 May 2015.
9. Thompson, Andrew (6 May 2015). "Slot machines perfected
addictive gaming. Now, tech wants their tricks" (https://www.theve
on-psychology-mobile-games). The Verge.
10. Skinner, B. F. (1959). Cumulative record (1999 definitive ed.).
Cambridge, MA: B.F. Skinner Foundation. p 620
11. Skinner, B. F. (1983). A Matter of Consequences. New York, NY:
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. p 116, 164

External links
From Pavlov to Skinner Box ( - background and experiment

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