Reflections about Reinforcement (PDF)

In the 1950s, Dr. Fred Keller wrote a book called Learning: Reinforcement Theory.

Screenshot of the PDF: Reflections on Dr. Fred Keller's Learning: Reinforcement Theory

The size of a small paperback novel, it’s a short book. The whole thing is about 80 pages. However, within its pages, Dr. Keller explains the basics of operant and respondent conditioning, reinforcement, punishment, extinction, intermittent reinforcement, generalization, discrimination, chaining, and more.

For those who are not familiar with Dr. Keller, he was an accomplished behavior analyst and a contemporary of Dr. B. F. Skinner. Skinner and Keller met at Harvard in the 1930s and remained friends for life. Dr. Keller authored the textbook Principles of Psychology with Dr. William Shoenfeld and also developed the Personalized System of Instruction, a framework for teaching self-paced, mastery-based courses.

Learning: Reinforcement Theory is out of print and has largely been forgotten as other textbooks have replaced it. Still, it provides a solid introduction to the basic ideas of behavior analysis and contains many interesting examples and thought-provoking passages.

I re-read the book during the summer of 2019.During that time, Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz and I published a series of short posts about the book on our Behavior Explorer Facebook page.

We have collected those 14 posts, edited them slightly, and assembled them in this PDF. We hope you will enjoy these short articles about Dr. Keller’s book and hope they will help you think in new ways about how people and animals learn.

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