Operant conditioning forms the premise that behaviours are shaped by their consequences. It is fundamentally learned behaviour, formulated by responses to positive or negative motivations; no behaviour is without consequence, enjoyable or bad. It is this application of consequences that connects certain responses to particular stimuli (Huitt & Hummel, 1997).
There are two types of consequences associated with this conditioning: reinforcement, which increases the likelihood of repetitive behaviour, and punishment which decreases the probability of the undesirable actions (Smallbone, 2007, as cited in Hayes & Prenzler, 2007). One of the main principles of operant conditioning is reinforcement. There are two forms of consequences: reinforcement and punishment. These can be either positive or negative. Primary positive reinforcement involves the introduction of a stimulus, for example a reward or treat, for good behaviour. This serves to increase the chance of good behaviour. Secondary reinforcements, such as an encouraging verbal acknowledgment can further strengthen this principle (Bernstein, Penner, Clarke-Stewart & Roy, 2006). Negative reinforcement is through the removal of a negative stimulus after the desired response is shown. This is expected to increase the chances of required behaviour being repeated. An example of this is a husband being nagged by his wife to mow the lawn, and after he completed this chore the nagging cease, the nagging being the negative stimulus. Positive punishment is when a negative stimulus is introduced after undesirable behaviour, for example, a naughty child being sent to their room for misbehaving. This is intended to decrease unfavourable behaviour. Negative punishment is the removal of a pleasant stimulus after undesirable behaviour, as in taking a favourite toy away after a tantrum, therefore decreasing the likelihood of repetitive behaviour.
Even though operant conditioning is optimally used to encourage...
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