An operant conditioning chamber (also known as the Skinner box) is a laboratory apparatus used in the experimental analysis of behaviour to study animal behaviour. The operant conditioning chamber was created by B. F. Skinner while he was a graduate student at Harvard University (Masters in 1930 and doctorate in 1931). It is used to study both operant conditioning and classical conditioning.
An operant conditioning chamber permits experimenters to study behaviour conditioning (training) by teaching a subject animal to perform certain actions (like pressing a lever) in response to specific stimuli, like a light or sound signal. When the subject correctly performs the behaviour, the chamber mechanism delivers food or another reward. In some cases, the mechanism delivers a punishment for incorrect or missing responses. For instance, to test how operant conditioning works for certain invertebrates, psychologists use a device known as a "heat box". Essentially this takes up the same form as the Skinner box, however the box is composed of two sides: one side that can undergo temperature change and the other that does not. As soon as the invertebrate crosses over to the side that can undergo a temperature change, the area is heated up. Eventually the invertebrate will be conditioned to stay on one side of a heat box, or more specifically the side that does not undergo a temperature change. This goes to the extent that even when the temperature is turned to its lowest point, the fruit fly will still refrain from approaching that area of the heat box. These types of apparatuses allow experimenters to perform studies in conditioning and training through reward/punishment mechanisms.