Definition of Skinner box in English:

Skinner box


  • An apparatus for studying instrumental conditioning in animals (typically rats or pigeons) in which the animal is isolated and provided with a lever or switch which it learns to use to obtain a reward, such as a food pellet, or to avoid a punishment, such as an electric shock.

    ‘The studies described as operant were conducted in Skinner boxes using positive reinforcement and a free operant procedure.’
    • ‘An animal behaviorist I knew used to demonstrate this in laboratory rats that were previously shaped to the Skinner box procedures.’
    • ‘The students have a joke about the rats in the Skinner box.’
    • ‘The ‘projects’ turned out to be a dreadful welfare-state variant of the Skinner box.’
    • ‘The novel becomes a sort of Skinner box, the characters within prodded and cajoled by jolts of the otherworldly.’


Skinner box

/ˈskinər ˌbäks/ /ˈskɪnər ˌbɑks/


1940s named after B. F. Skinner (see Skinner, B. F.).