Glossary Entry: Skinner box

Quick Definition

These are tools used by behavioral scientists. They were named after their inventor, B. F. Skinner, so for those who were concerned, these boxes have nothing to do with skinning anything.

More details

A Skinner box is a device that trains the animal inside it to perform an action repeatedly, usually by offering rewards (such as food) for a desired action and punishment for an undesired action. The behavioral models that can be seen using these devices are usually also found in humans, making it one way to learn about how people tick.

When it comes to video games, some of them are said to have been designed using research from Skinner boxes. For example, slot machines are designed to let you win just enough to keep you trying again and again.

On a side note, B. F. Skinner didn't want to become the namesake of his invention, preferring to call it the "Operant Conditioning Chamber", which manages to make it sound even more disturbing.

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