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BF Skinner's Bio
Who is BF Skinner?
BF Skinner's Research
What is Operant Conditioning?
Principles of Operant Conditioning
Reinforcement Schedule
Generalization and Discrimination
Applications of Operant Conditioning


Shaping is a reinforcement technique that is used to teach animals or people behaviors that they have never performed before. In this method, the teacher begins by reinforcing a response the learner can perform easily, and then gradually requires more and more difficult responses. For example, to teach a rat to press a lever that is over its head, the trainer can first reward any upward head movement, then an upward movement of at least one inch, then two inches, and so on, until the rat reaches the lever. Psychologists have used shaping to teach children with severe mental retardation to speak by first rewarding any sounds they make, and then gradually requiring sounds that more and more closely resemble the words of the teacher. Animal trainers at circuses and theme parks use shaping to teach elephants to stand on one leg, tigers to balance on a ball, dogs to do backward flips, and killer whales and dolphins to jump through hoops.


Photo Researchers, Inc./Renee Lynn

Killer Whale Performing

A killer whale jumps out of a pool at Marine World, a theme park in Vallejo, California. Through shaping, a type of operant conditioning, a trainer can teach killer whales and other animals behaviors they have never performed before. Shaping uses rewards to gradually guide an animal toward a desired behavior. In this case, the desired behavior is touching the ball above the water, and the reward for the killer whale is fish.

Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2004. 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.



1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.