• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of jeabehavJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Web SiteSubscriber LoginJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis Web SiteSubscription InformationInformation for AuthorsJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Web Site
J Exp Anal Behav. Nov 2004; 82(3): 317–328.
PMCID: PMC1285014

A day of great illumination: B. F. Skinner's discovery of shaping.

Abstract

Despite the seminal studies of response differentiation by the method of successive approximation detailed in chapter 8 of The Behavior of Organisms (1938), B. F. Skinner never actually shaped an operant response by hand until a memorable incident of startling serendipity on the top floor of a flour mill in Minneapolis in 1943. That occasion appears to have been a genuine eureka experience for Skinner, causing him to appreciate as never before the significance of reinforcement mediated by biological connections with the animate social environment, as opposed to purely mechanical connections with the inanimate physical environment. This insight stimulated him to coin a new term (shaping), and also led directly to a shift in his perspective on verbal behavior from an emphasis on antecedents and molecular topographical details to an emphasis on consequences and more molar, functional properties in which the social dyad inherent to the shaping process became the definitive property of verbal behavior. Moreover, the insight seems to have emboldened Skinner to explore the greater implications of his behaviorism for human behavior writ large, an enterprise that characterized the bulk of his post-World War II scholarship.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (625K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Burch MR. A toast to Most: Konrad Most, a 1910 pioneer in animal training. J Appl Behav Anal. 1990 Summer;23(2):263–264. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • ISAACS W, THOMAS J, GOLDIAMOND I. Application of operant conditioning to reinstate verbal behavior in psychotics. J Speech Hear Disord. 1960 Feb;25:8–12. [PubMed]
  • Lovaas OI, Berberich JP, Perloff BF, Schaeffer B. Acquisition of imitative speech by schizophrenic children. Science. 1966 Feb 11;151(3711):705–707. [PubMed]
  • Miller S, Konorski J. On a particular form of conditioned reflex. J Exp Anal Behav. 1969 Jan;12(1):187–189. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Taub E, Crago JE, Burgio LD, Groomes TE, Cook EW, 3rd, DeLuca SC, Miller NE. An operant approach to rehabilitation medicine: overcoming learned nonuse by shaping. J Exp Anal Behav. 1994 Mar;61(2):281–293. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior are provided here courtesy of Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

Formats: