Thursday, June 11, 2009

Skinner Box

Right now I'm in the process of studying for an exam (Praxis PLT) to upgrade my teaching license. It's not really an upgrade since budgets are tight this year and there may not be an increase in teacher salaries for some. It's more of a requirement. If you teach in Utah and don't pass the test before your fourth year, you can no longer keep your job. I was hoping that multiple choice and essay exams came to an end when I graduated from college, but here they are again to haunt my life. The test has 24 multiple choice questions and 12 essay questions. I am a very SLOW writer, so you can probably image how much stress the mere idea of the essays give me.

In order to prepare for this beastly exam, I have been reading a lot about famous psychologists because a large portion of the test is devoted to educational theory. One of the most interesting so far has been B.F. Skinner. Those of you intellectuals out there probably know all about Skinner already. If you don't, Skinner is most famous for the theory of operant conditioning, the Skinner box, and the air crib. These are interesting little contraptions. There is a rumor that Skinner drove his own daughter crazy by sticking her in a Skinner Box in an attempt to prove his hypothesis, but I think this is just a myth.

Skinner had a theory in the 1940's that he could condition pigeons to peck at specific images and then use them to control the path of a missile by "majority rule". It was called Project Orcon, short for organic control. Needless to say, the military thought this was a just a little eccentric and Skinner never saw the full implementation of his idea. Our study manual included a little picture of a pigeon pecking at a screen and I couldn't help laughing when I saw it. Sometimes it's the random information that cracks me up and helps me remember things.

Skinner Box is also the name of a Ska Band.

Phot0 from

1 comment:

Amanda said...

that's just weird. pigeon guided missiles.


and no, i didn't go to the game. it was a boys night, and in all honesty, football games are not the...cleanest of places. Really dirty. Everyone gets as drunk as possible before going. They leave ALL of their trash on the floor. Plus. I went shopping at H&M and Zara's, and House of Fraser with some girlfriends :)