Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages



Complex behaviors can be established in operant conditioning by separately training component behaviors.  B.F. Skinner developed this notion of shaping, in which the experimenter waits until the subject spontaneously displays a behavior somewhat similar to the desired behavior.  This behavior is reinforced, and once established, discrimination is developed by reinforcing only behavior closer and closer to the target behavior.

Structural linguistics, with its emphasis on the classification of elements of language into paradigms and patterns, offered an opportunity to apply behavioral psychology to foreign language acquisition.


  1. Watch: Operant conditioning
  2. Read and reflect: Generalisation and discrimination

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