Understanding Operant Conditioning

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Operant conditioning is a type of learning in which the likelihood of a specific behavior increases or decreases through positive or negative reinforcement or punishment each time the behavior occurs (Palmer, 2004). Reinforcement empowers the response or behavior, and increases the chances of it repeating. Punishment reduces the response or behavior, and decreases the chances of it repeating. In operant conditioning this behavior is active and voluntary (Carpenter & Huffman, 2010). Scott’s tragedy and coulrophobia were maintained through operant conditioning and negative reinforcement. Billy’s response is panic and anxiety whenever he cannot distinguish the identity of a person who has his face covered. Billy must choose between two consequences in dealing with his response. Either he confronts the situation or he avoids it completely. Billy’s primary reinforcers include his emotions, thoughts, and memories that flash through his head. These primary reinforcers produce negative reinforcement because by avoiding these events Scott doesn’t have to deal with his emotions. Not dealing with his feelings strengthens the likelihood of him continuing to avoid events. Billy avoidance behavior is not helping him but making his fear worse. Cognitive-social learning is learning through personal experiences and by watching others. Albert Bandura researched and came up with his own theory on learning. He discovered new behaviors are learned through observation and imitation (Carpenter & Huffman, 2010). According to cognitive social learning, Billy’s coulrophobia is impressed either by someone in his family or television. Billy observed his family’s attitudes, emotions, and fear over the people who robbed and hurt his family. Influenced by his family, Billy was scared of anyone in a mask.

Carpenter, S., & Huffman, K. (2010). Visualizing Psychology. In (Ed.), Retrieved from Palmer, D. C. (2004). Operant Conditioning. In The Concise...
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