Updating Our File

I want to learn about learning. As a professional dog person I know a bit about B.F. Skinner, operant conditioning, and learning theory but what I don’t know is where it went after that. I know about reinforcement vs punishment and the negative and positive types of both, but then what happened?

B.F. Skinner published his most famous works 50 to 60 years ago. A lot of time has passed and the world has changed a great deal. Yet when I read what other parents are saying and observe how our children are taught in their pre-school I feel like the B.F. Skinner model is still thought of as cutting edge.

Perhaps this is something where the world of psychology and learning theory has moved well beyond the thoughts of B.F. Skinner but the rest of the world hasn’t caught up. A lot like how when a layperson debates economics they do so by talking about an 18th century Scottish Moralist vs an 19th century German Philosopher. There has to be work that expanded and challenged the work of B.F. Skinner and I am only familiar with it because I have read dog training and behavior books.

My greatest desire is to update my file on human learning and behavior. What drives us? Are all our actions really to avoid negative stimulus and seek positive ones? Or is there something more to us?

My question is where do I turn? I looked up B.F. Skinner on Wikipedia and found a couple people that he influenced but that led to mainly dead ends. He influenced them, they largely corroborated his studies, and then nothing. What does modern learning theory look like?

The obvious answer is to Google learning theory. It is something I have yet to do, or I could look up who is publishing modern psychology work on learning and behavior and go from there or I could stop worrying about it, read and play with my children, and not stress so much about how the sausage is made.

Except I’m not built that way. I like knowing how the sausage is made. I am under no illusion that knowing will make me a better parent or change anything in my children’s lives, but I want to understand. I want to know. It is one more journey I wish to needlessly embark on.

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