Sunday, November 7, 2010

Operant conditioning from the 1940s?

 I know that debates about reinforcement and punishment often leave high school psychology teachers (and their students) tied in knots, so I post this with some trepidation. But when I spied the picture above on BoingBoing this week I thought - whoa - this has got to be a new example for students to ponder!

I say sewing the lace on the bottom is a great example of negative reinforcement. What say you, gentle readers?

(P.S. No way to know whether the mother here was Mrs. Skinner. I tried in vain to find similar images from the same source.)

-- posted by Steve


mbritt said...

Okay, I'll bite. I say it's negative reinforcement. The boy will do something (tuck his shirt in) in order to avoid a negative experience (lace showing).

What makes this a good example is that having lace showing must indeed be experienced as negative for the subject. This was probably very true back in the '40's. Is it still such a strong negative experience today?

Rob Mc said...

I think I agree with Neg. reinforcement, but I'll take a different stance just to keep the conversation going :) Howze about observational learning? Its not just a behavioral intervention - there is cognition going on too. The boy saw other boys (and girls) acting in within cultural gender roles, as well as the consequences of acting outside those roles. It this cultural gender norm that gives the lace threat its "power" to change behavior.

Chuck Schallhorn said...

So it's avoidance conditioning, an offshoot of negative reinforcement. I would imagine that in the 1940s, the stigma of being labeled anything short of being fully masculine would be quite the powerful motivator. I agree with Rob that there is much cognition going on with this, the fear of potential harassment.