Operant Conditioning Berline Jean Baptiste PSY/390 March 4, 2013 Esther Siler-Colbert Abstract When thinking about conditioning in general, one will, most likely, refer to classical, and operant conditioning right away. Furthermore, those who study psychology will associate classical conditioning with Ivan Pavlov who was a famous Russian psychologist and operant conditioning with B. F. Skinner, who was a very influential American psychologist. Even though both types of conditioning differ greatly from each other, they are still equally significant to education.
Operant Conditioning If one follows the assumptions of a behaviorist, then not all behavior is genetically determined. Since it is not, it is either a function of responded or operant conditioning. Skinner surely followed the footsteps of E. L. Thorndike, who used the term “of instrumental conditioning instead of operant”. Both, however, believed that animals and humans are capable of more complicated behavior, albeit gradually. According to Skinner, this form of learning was a conditioning one, but one that was of a different kind from the one proposed by Pavlov.
For instance, in respondent behavior, one does something in a passive manner to the environment; however, in operant conditioning, one does it because somewhere in the past this kind of behavior was associated with a pleasing outcome or with trying to avoid the occurrence of an unpleasant one. Therefore, quite opposite from what respondent behavior is, this kind of operant is always conditioned. Very important to indicate that the probability of a behavior occurring again, increases or decreases with the merit of its consequences. Clearly, it can be said that one learns to colligate an action to its consequence.
The bond between the action and the consequence is referred to as contingency, which further declares one’s behavior in the future (Alloy, Riskind & Manos, 2005). In Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning there are three different terms, which are needed, and they are stimulus, response, and reinforcement, and as acknowledged by Skinner on several occasions, life is full of reinforces. There are different kinds of reinforces too, such as food or sex, to which one responds instinctively. These kinds of reinforces are known as primary reinforces and do not need to be learned.
However, one responds mostly to reinforce that were conditioned, referred today to as secondary reinforces (Alloy, Riskind & Manos, 2005). There are three components in operant conditioning named positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment. According to Skinner’s theory, reinforcement is a consequence that will result in a behavior repeating; punishment has the opposite effect. It is very important to know that the terms positive and negative do not refer to something being just pleasant or unpleasant but instead, they indicate if a stimulus was added or taken away.
To further simplify, in positive reinforcement the behavior is strengthened by adding a stimulus and in negative reinforcement, the behavior is weakened by removing one. Still, it is very important to point out that negative reinforcement is very often confused with punishment. One needs to keep in mind that one kind strengthens behavior, such as the reinforcement, whereas the other one, the punishment, eliminates behavior (Alloy, Riskind & Manos, 2005). It is difficult to define clearly, which reinforcement is the most effective one.
Two major factors, the organism itself and the kind of circumstances, come into play when trying to make a decision of this kind. While for some, positive reinforcement may work truly well, for others the effectiveness of a negative reinforcement might do more. In addition, the results one seeks could also influence which one might be the better choice. So for instance, if one is in a restaurant and had a great dinner, he or she will most likely leave a big tip. In this scenario, positive reinforcement will most likely have a greater impact than a negative one.
However, one would use negative reinforcement when trying to remove something annoying, such as a loud noise. Using a seatbelt in a car will remove the annoying beep noise that is usually there when one is unbuckled. Therefore, using the seatbelt is reinforced because it removes a stimulus. In summary, it can be acknowledge that both kinds of reinforcement are very effective since they increase the chance of a future response. In addition to positive and negative reinforcement, there is also the positive and negative punishment.
For instance, positive punishment can be one adding an angry voice to an argument while negative punishment can be removing privileges, which parents often do when trying to punish their children for bad behavior. Once again, what kind of reinforcement, and even punishment, is the most effective, truly depends on different aspects (Schunk, 2008). The use of operant conditioning can be very often observed in parents raising their children. The same can be applied to me. I am a mom of two boys, one who is almost two years old and the other who is two months old. They not only differ in their physical appearance but also in their character.
It seems while negative reinforcement might work truly well on the 19 months old, it probably would not work well on my two months old when his older. Since my 19 months old is usually very active, behave extremely well, like to read his book, and due his daily learning charts if this would suddenly change, I would try to apply negative reinforcement to shape his behavior. Even though my two months old is not yet old enough to take action towards, but if he starts crying after his diaper has been change and he’s been fed then I will use positive reinforcement to shape his behavior.
Knowing my 19 months old, I am assuming the only possible way to shape his behavior and have him read his book and also have him do his daily learning charts constantly would be by having him spend more time indoors, instead of playing outside. Therefore, the choice to use negative reinforcement is the perfect one for him and for this kind of situation. If he wanted to go outside more and play, he would be able to gain more of this time back by not falling behind. Once doing so, he could go outside again and play with his friends. In this case, good behavior would decrease the time he would have to stay indoors.
If my two months old decided not to stop crying and would require some attention, I would use attention to shape his behavior, which in this case would work as a positive reinforcement. Paying attention to him, showing him that I am here even when he is not being held would make him feel more secure and won’t mind lying in his swinger. In addition, depending on the situation, continuous reinforcement might not always be possible. For instance, I might not always have the time to give him all of my attention because I do have to share myself between him and my other son.
Maybe additional strategies, such as the use of reinforcement schedules, might be necessary. There are four kinds of reinforcement schedules called fixed ratio, variable ratio, fixed interval, and variable interval. In my son’s case, variable ratio might work well. He knows he will get the attention when I can; however, he won’t know when it will happen. However, if both, the positive and negative reinforcement, seem not to work, then there is the possibility of using punishment. In this case, I would take privileges away from both of them so that their behavior can be shaped (Martinez, 2010).
References Alloy, L. , B. , Riskind, J. , H. & Manos, M. , J. (2005). Abnormal psychology: Current perspectives (9th. ed. ) New York, NY: The McGraw-Hills Companies Inc. Martinez, M. , E. (2010). Learning and cognition: The design of the mind. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc. Olson, M. , H. & Hergenhahn, B. , R. (2009). An Introduction to theories of learning. (8th. Ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. Schunk, D. , H. (2008). Learning theories: An educational perspective (5th. ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.
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