The following paper will examine the concept of learning as well as how this concept of learning is related to cognition. Through this examination there will be a description of the theory of operant conditioning, a comparison and contrasting view of positive and negative reinforcement, and a determination of which type of reinforcement is most effective. Following this determination there will be a given scenario where the application of operant conditioning shapes behavior. Within this scenario will be a reinforcement schedule to achieve a selected behavior. Theory of Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning, coined and defined by B. F. Skinner in 1937 as “behavior controlled by its consequences” is in practice, not that different from instrumental learning and what most people would call habit (Staddon & Cerutti, 2003 p. 116). According to Dragoi and Staddon (1999), “theories of operant learning have traditionally emphasized static principles” (p. 20). These principles are laws for a stable equilibria that are widely independent of the organism’s previous history. In the case of operant conditioning, the matching law is the best example; “the proportion of responses to one choice alternative matches the proportion of reinforcements delivered by it” (Dragoi & Staddon, 1999 p. 20). This essentially says that for every choice a subject makes, whether it be right or wrong, the reinforcement should be of equal value no matter if it is negative or positive reinforcement. Positive or Negative Reinforcement
The following paragraphs will compare and contrast positive and negative reinforcements. To be clear “a reinforcer is anything that increases the probability of a response’s recurring” (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009 p. 75). In reference to Olson and Hergenhahn (2009), Skinner never mentioned what was a better reinforcer, positive or negative, he only mentioned that something can be ascertained as reinforcing by its effect on behavior....
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