The development of a new operant behavior using reinforcement of successive approximations of that behavior.
Shaping is a procedure developed by Skinner, involving the presentation of reinforcement for exhibiting successive approximations of a target behavior. Successively closer approximations of a behavior are reinforced until the individual exhibits the desired response (terminal behavior).
Skinner’s First Experiments and the Invention of the Term “Shaping”
Skinner first described the method of response differentiation by mechanically reinforcing successive approximations in 1938 (Skinner 1938) but had not used the term shaping until several years later in 1951. He conducted the first experiment using free-form shaping by hand (as opposed to via a mechanical device) a few years later in 1943, while working on Project Pigeon in Minnesota (Peterson 2004). Skinner later said, referring to this occasion that “possibly...
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