Compare and contrast how Skinner and Harlow have used non-human animals in behavioural research.
This essay will compare and contrast how Skinner and Harlow have used non-human animals in behavioural research. It will describe their actual experiments and consider similarities and differences and also discuss the social, political and ethical issues which have been raised concerning this research.
Harry Harlow was an American Psychologist born on 31st October 1905 who used monkeys to experiment in his study of attachment, to determine whether infants bond to their mother with soft warm objects or that which provides food. B. F. Skinner who was also an American Psychologist was born on 20th March 1904. Skinner experimented on rats in his behavioural research on reinforcement and learning and developed the law of operative conditioning. Both psychologists conducted influential research on the behaviour of animals concluding their findings could also be applied to humans.

Skinner was influenced mainly by Thorndike (1898) who studied the behaviour and nature of learning in animals. Skinner based his research on ‘Instrumental Conditioning’, a form of conditioning where the outcome depended upon the action of the animal. Skinner believed that the best way to understand behaviour is to look at the causes of an action and its consequences. He called this approach operant conditioning. Skinner began his research by observing rats in a maze and how long it would take to find their way to the food.   Finding the food was the consequence of the rat’s behaviour. This process is known as behaviour shaping. This method was very time consuming so he invented the ‘Skinner Box’ (pg 163). This box was designed so the animal inside, rat or pigeon, would press or peck a lever and as a result, a small pellet of food would be released into a food tray for the rat to eat. This process of reinforcement is where the reinforcer is the food, known as a positive reinforcer, ‘giving...