Operant Conditioning

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Operant Conditioning

Skinner’s operant conditioning is a type of learning in which the person’s behavior becomes either more or less probable depending on the consequences it produces. The person or the learner is able to voluntarily control the choices of behavior. A learner will respond to the environment and then they make an association of the consequence of that response. The response will then likely or not likely occur again depending on the consequence of the response. The basic principle behind operant conditioning is that people tend to repeat behaviors that have pleasant consequences, and reduce behaviors that have unpleasant consequences.

Reinforcement occurs when a consequence strengthens a response, or makes it more likely to occur. Positive reinforcement is one type of reinforcement. In positive reinforcement, the consequence of the action is favorable to the person, thus the behavior is strengthened through the adding of a positive consequence. I can remember when I was younger, if I did all of my chores during the week I would receive an allowance for doing all the chores. The allowance would be the positive reinforcement because it was given, and it strengthened my behavior of doing all my chores. In negative reinforcement, a behavior is strengthened because something negative or unpleasant is removed from the situation, or is escaped or avoided after the behavior occurs. I remember the first time I lied to my parents that I wasn’t feeling good so I did not have to go to school because I had to do a speech and I was nervous about it. So by lying and saying I wasn’t feeling good, my anxiety went away about the speech, and the behavior was strengthened because I avoided the aversive state.

Contrast reinforcement, is punishment. Punishment decreases the strength of, or weakens the behavior. Positive punishment occurs when an unpleasant event is added to the situation following a behavior. For example, when I played soccer as a...
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