What Is the Difference Between Skinner and Bandura?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 26, 2020 3:19:50 PM ET

B.F. Skinner believed that people are directly reinforced by positive or negative experiences in an environment and demonstrate learning through their altered behavior when confronted with the same scenario. Albert Bandura believed learning is not always measured by behavior and can even be done by watching someone else learn.


Skinner was considered the father of operant conditioning, which basically meant that he believed the most efficient way to understand behavior was to study cause and effect and ignore any mediating mental processes in between. He theorized that most behavior was controlled by reinforcers, or stimuli that made behaviors more likely to happen. For example, an allowance may reinforce a child's behavior of cleaning her room. Conversely, punishers are stimuli that make a behavior less likely to happen.

Bandura was most interested in the internal processes. Specifically, he was adamant that information could be learned just as thoroughly by observing another individual learning the lesson. For example, Bandura posited that a child would learn a stove is hot from watching someone else burn his hand. Additionally, Bandura felt self-efficacy, or an individual's belief that they can master the specific material, was instrumental in how well material was learned and retained. While Skinner remained a radical behaviorist, Bandura became a pioneer in exploring cognitive thought.