Developed by B. F. Skinner, a Skinner box is a chamber that contains a bar or key that an animal can press or manipulate in order to obtain food or water as a type of reinforcement. The Skinner box also had a device that recorded each response provided by the animal as well as the unique schedule of reinforcement that the animal was assigned.
The design of Skinner boxes can vary depending upon the type of animal and the experimental variables. The box is a chamber that includes at least one lever, bar, or key that the animal can manipulate. When the lever is pressed, food, water, or some other type of reinforcement might be dispensed. Other stimuli can also be presented including lights, sounds, and images. In some instances, the floor of the chamber may be electrified.
What exactly was the purpose of a Skinner box? Using the device researchers could carefully study behavior in a very controlled environment. For example, researchers could utilize the Skinner box to determine which schedule of reinforcement led to the highest rate of response in the study subjects.