Operant Conditioning

Topics: Reinforcement, Operant conditioning, Experimental analysis of behavior Pages: 4 (1120 words) Published: May 12, 2014

Submitted by:
RuAnn H. Roach
April 18, 2014

Introduction to Psychology
PS124 – 11
Dr. K. Latimer

John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner were the forefathers of behavioral learning, an alternative scientific perspective to the failure of introspection. Where Ivan Pavlov used classical conditioning (learning that occurs when a neutral stimulus becomes associated with a stimulus that naturally produces a behavior) these behaviorists, Watson and Skinner, focused their research entirely on behavior. According to our text (Stangor, C., 2010, p.198),”the fundamental aspect of learning is the process of conditioning… the ability to connect stimuli (changes that occur in the environment) with responses (behaviors or other actions).” Encompassed within this paper will be my definitions of the following conditioning terms and an example of each: 1. Operant conditioning

2. Positive reinforcement
3. Negative reinforcement
4. Positive punishment
5. Negative punishment and,
6. Ethical concerns that may arise when using the above methods to change or modify behavior.

OPERANT CONDITIONING – learning from consequences of one’s own actions.
B.F. Skinner coined the term operant conditioning in the late 1930’s, to describe changing of behavior by use of reinforcement to get a certain response. He identified three types of responses (operants) that can follow behavior: (1) Neutral, responses from the environment that do not increase or decrease the behavior if repeated; (2) Reinforcers, responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated [positive or negative]; and (3) Punishers, response from the environment that decrease the probability that a certain behavior will be repeated.

Skinner is regarded as the father of Operant Conditioning, but most of his work was based on the works of psychologist Edward L Thorndike’s Law of Effect. Where Thorndike used a “puzzle box”, Skinner had...

References: Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
McLeod, S. A, 2007, Skinner, operant conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditionin.html
Stangor, C. (2010). Introduction to psychology. Irvington, NY: Flat World Knowledge, Inc.
Taylor, C.A., Manganello, J.A., Lee, S.J., & Rice, J.C., (2010). Mothers spanking of 3 year old and subsequent risk of children’s aggressive behavior. Pediatrics 125(5): e1057-65
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