Analyzing Conditioning in the Film Searching for Bobby Fischer
The main character, Josh Waitzkin, in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, has learned about the game of chess and the consequences of winning and losing through operant and observational conditioning. Operant conditioning, according to The Free Dictionary, is “a process of behavior modification in which the likelihood of a specific behavior is increased or decreased through positive or negative reinforcement each time the behavior is exhibited, so that the subject comes to associate the pleasure or displeasure of the reinforcement with the behavior”. Observational conditioning, according to Princeton, is “a type of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating novel behavior executed by others”. Many scenes demonstrate concepts from the psychology of conditioning, such as reinforcement, overjustification effect, punishment, and modeling. These concepts are methods used by Josh’s friend, teacher, and parents to help Josh become a better chess player.
Reinforcement is used constantly throughout the movie to aid Josh in becoming a better chess player. The different types of reinforcement used in this movie are primary reinforcement and secondary reinforcement. Reinforcement is a method is operant conditioning to reinforce a behavior by associating a behavior with positive outcome. Primary reinforcement is reinforcement with an outcome that satisfies a basic need such as food, water, affection, etc. In the movie, Josh’s father and teacher reward him verbally when Josh does the correct move and wins the championship game against Poe. Verbally rewarding Josh is a type of primary reinforcement because it is a type of affection, a basic human need. Secondary reinforcement is a type of reinforcement that the subject learns to appreciate, such as money and luxury. Josh receives chess points for doing well in his class in order to receive his master certificate. Receiving...
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