Behavorist Glossary

Behaviorist Glossary

1. Associative bias: A phenomena related to classical conditioning. Associations between certain stimuli are more likely to be made than are associations between others. Some stimuli are especially likely, such as between food and nausea while others are less likely, such as a flash of light and nausea.

 2. Contingency: Classical conditioning occurs when the unconditioned stimulus and would-be conditioned stimulus are presented at approximately the same time creating continuity between the two stimuli. Contingency is the potential conditioned stimulus must occur when the unconditioned stimulus is likely to follow – when the conditioned stimulus serves as a signal that the unconditioned stimulus is probably on its way. 

 3. Extinction: Extinction is the phenomenon of repeated presentations of the conditioned stimulus without the unconditioned stimulus led to successively weaker and weaker conditioned responses.

 4. Generalization: Generalization is when learners respond to other stimuli in the same way they respond to conditioned stimuli. The more similar a stimulus is to the conditioned stimulus, the greater probability of generalization. Generalization of conditioned response to new stimuli is a common phenomenon. An example is Little Albert’s fear of all white fuzzy objects.

 5. Counter conditioning: With counterconditioning the response is replaced with a more productive response and tends to more effective.  Counterconditioning involves the following steps: one, a new response that is incompatible with the existing conditioned response is chosen. Two responses are incompatible with each other when they cannot be performed at the same time.  Two, a stimulus that elicits the incompatible response must be identified. To help elicit a happy response to a stimulus that previously elicited displeasure, a stimulus that already elicits pleasure needs to be found.

 6. Operant conditioning: Principle formulated by Skinner which states a response followed by a reinforcer is strengthened and therefore more likely to occur again. Term reinforcer is used instead of reward to describe a consequence that increases the frequency of behavior. Additionally a reinforcer is not defined by it being pleasant or desirable, as a reward is. A reinforcer is defined as being a stimulus or event that increases the frequency of a response it follows. The act of following a response with a reinforced is called reinforcement.

 7. Programmed instruction: Also shortened to PI, Programmed Instruction was adopted by Skinner and involved a teaching machine, which was a box with a long roll of printed materials that a student could advance past a display window, expose small parts of information. PI developed into programmed textbooks and computer software in the 1960s and 1970s. There are several features of PI: one, the material to be learned is presented through a series of discrete segments, or frames. The frames follow the pattern of having the first frame present a new piece of information and pose a question about it. The student responds to the frame then goes to the second frame which gives the correct answer to the question, more information and asks a second question. There are several concepts imbedded in this sequence including active responding, shaping, immediate reinforcement, and individual differences in learning rate.

The first PI was a linear program which students’ went through the same sequence in the same order. The branching program progresses in larger steps and students who respond incorrectly are directed to several remedial frames. Other students move on to new concepts therefore not having to spend time on unneeded practice.

 8. CAI: Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) is administers a branching program using computer technologies. Advantages include one, the computer automatically presents appropriate follow-up frames for various instructions; two, with computer graphics capabilities, information can be presented in ways traditional paper and pencil cannot; three, the computer can record and maintain ongoing data for each student  and teachers can monitor the students’ progress to see which students are having especially difficult times; and four, a computer can be used to provide instruction when teachers are not available to be present. Examples of CAI systems include Khan Academy, Study Island, and to a certain degree benchmark and yearly testing such as STAR, NWEA and SBAC.


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