Quiz 15: Buss: Evolutionary Theory of Personality


Thorndike's original law of effect held that responses to stimuli followed by a satisfier tend to be "stamped in," or learned.A second part of the law stated that responses to stimuli followed by an annoyer tend to be "stamped our," or eliminated. Thorndike later changed the law of effect to include only the first part, namely that reinforcement or reward increases the chances of a behavior being learned.This concept is at the core of Skinner's operant conditioning. Watson had an even greater effect on Skinner, especially his notions of science and psychology.Watson's insistence that human behavior must be studied scientifically impressed Skinner even before he began graduate school. Watson criticized traditional psychology for studying consciousness, introspection, instincts, sensations, perception, motivation, and mental states.He also insisted that the goal of psychology must be prediction and control of behavior.Throughout his career, Skinner adhered closely to Watson's position.

Skinner insisted that the study of human behavior is essentially the same as the study of other natural phenomena.Physical and biological scientists do not attempt to attribute motivation, needs, or drives to the objects or biological processes they study.Skinner believed that psychologists who consider these inner states as instigators of action are wasting their time. Skinner's scientific behaviorism allows for an interpretation of behavior but not an explanation of its causes.Interpretation permits the psychologist to generalize from one situation to another, but explanation is no more than fabricating stories. Skinner believed that science has three main characteristics: (1) it is cumulative; (2) it is an attitude that values empirical observation; and (3) it is a search for lawful relationships. Science-in contrast to art, philosophy, and literature-advances in a cumulative manner.In other words, scientific knowledge continues to expand at ever-increasing speeds, while other areas of inquiry advance slowly, if at all. Science values empirical observation.It deals with facts rather than with what someone has said about the facts.It rejects authority-even its own authority.It also demands intellectual honesty and suspends judgment until clear trends emerge. Third, science searches for order and lawful relationships.Scientific observations are guided by theoretical assumptions and the results of tested hypotheses.

Negative reinforcement, like positive reinforcement, strengthens the behavior it follows. Positive reinforcement takes place when a positively valued stimulus increases the probability that a given behavior will occur.In comparison, negative reinforcement takes place when a negatively valued stimulus or condition is removed from a situation.In both cases, the behavior immediately preceding the reinforcer tends to be learned or strengthened. Negative reinforcement must not be confused with punishment, which does not strengthen behavior.Punishment is the presentation of an aversive stimulus or the removal of a positive one.With either type of punishment, psychologists are not able to make accurate predictions of behavior.With negative reinforcement (and positive reinforcement), psychologists can both predict and control behavior to a much greater extent.