During class we learned the significance of Skinner's discovery of shaping. Shaping is commonly defined as the reinforcement of gradual steps towards desired behavior which is applied to operant conditioning. This is very important in improving the learning process for animals and humans. The process itself is very simple though it may take a substantial amount of time to achieve the behavior desired, depending on how complex the behavior is. For example, Skinner provides the example of training a dove to turn in a circle--he reinforces every little motion in the direction of turning with positive reinforcement, food. Once the dove figures out what is going on, it is turning circles in no time at all.
This idea may even be applied to humans in developing therapies for autistic children as we learned in lecture. Lovaas furthered the idea of shaping by creating his own therapy known as Applied Behavior Analysis which uses the basic ideas of operant conditioning's shaping techniques--autistic children are rewarded when they use correct language or social behaviors, and as a result, autism has been proven to be 'curable.' This effective technique may be seen in this video:
I find this most interesting as I have been apart of a group that interacts with autistic kids in my high school. The program called Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) helps autistic and other kids with disabilities interact with the public through various activities and events. I have seen first hand how important positive reinforcement is in helping these individuals learn appropriate behavior. I have also seen how it does not always work which leads me to wonder if maybe this idea of shaping can be tweaked even more to be the achieve the most efficiency with bringing the autistic individuals into our society.