In looking at the history of behaviorism, there are a few names that will always come to mind. One such psychologist is B.F. Skinner, whom made many theoretical and experimental strides in the behaviorist movement. In ‘Superstition’ in the Pigeon, Skinner (1947), describes how the behavior associated with a reinforcement receiving response will often times become associated with the response.
In this experiment, the re-enforcer is the food that the pigeon will be given when the timer is set to dispense food. The actual response of the pigeon is not required, it is merely presented the food when the timer is set to dispense. As the pigeon performs different behaviors in the interim, the behaviors begin to take on the form of a response the pigeon is seeking to perform in hopes of getting the reinforcement. Thus, the behaviors are almost like rituals, or ‘superstitions’. The purpose of the experiment is to show the relationship between a response and a stimulus. Just because one thing follows the other is not causal, for there are other forces at work (i.e., the timer that dispenses food). In this way, Skinner seeks to show that reinforcement merely follows the response and that in this way the study of stimulus-response relationships may not be accurate.
In History and Systems of Psychology, Brennan (2003), points out that Skinner “used his data to argue that behavior is controlled”; in looking at the experiment described, it is clear that the behavior is controlled by the re-enforcer, even though the behavior that the animal is exhibiting has no effect on the reinforcement. It is clear, nonetheless, that the pigeon is exhibiting behavior that it would not normally do in other conditions. The collection of data and description that Skinner gives of his experiment, are clear, precise, and calculated, to further illustrate his careful manner in applying the empirical method.
In looking at the point of view presented, I can agree with...