Operant Conditioning

Topics: Reinforcement, Reward system, Operant conditioning Pages: 5 (993 words) Published: February 14, 2015


Operant Conditioning
PSY390
April 28, 2014
Operant Conditioning
From the time humans are born, they begin the process of learning. Learning can occur by means of experience, conditioning, and environmental factors. There are different types of learning such as classical conditioning through association, modeling or observational through observation, and operant conditioning through consequences. Over a period of time, if a certain outcome is consistently followed by a particular behavior, this may affect the incidence of future behaviors (Charles, 2014). Through the use of positive and negative reinforcement, a behavior may increase or decrease. Using reinforcement schedules may also ensure a productive outcome because of the consistency that it offers. Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is the method of learning through a system of rewards (Charles, 2014). and punishments system to change a behavior. This type of conditioning can result in behavioral changes. The rewards or punishments applied may depend on what the desired outcome is, for example; positive input given may reinforce good behavior. When a person does something that produces a good outcome, it is likely that the good behavior will be repeated in the future. When it is followed by a less than favorable outcome, the behavior becomes less likely to be repeated. There is also the natural law, such as a child getting burned on a hot object. There is also social convention, which is the result of someone encouraging another emotionally. The term punishment is not limited to the definition that if you commit a crime you end up in prison, rather it is the undesirable outcome. Thorndike stated in one of his experiments, “The greater the satisfaction or discomfort, the greater the strengthening or weakening of the bond” (Thorndike, 1911, p. 244). Skinner did not have a specific rule of how to determine the most effective reinforcer. What works for one person as a reward may not work for another (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013). For reinforcements to be effective, the results will be positive or negative, but should be carefully chosen based on the individual and the situation. For example, teaching a child to swim could be an anxious experience. The parent will need to use direction, have patience, and be encouraging along the way. Taking the child out for ice cream afterward, even if they got scared, is a positive reinforcer offered to keep the child motivated. If the parent becomes agitated and takes away the secure feeling of support or makes critical remarks, the child may give up and completely lose interest. Eventually, with encouragement and positive reassurances, the child should be able to feel comfortable. Developing a reinforcement schedule with the above techniques could lead to the eventual reward for the child, learning to swim. Reinforcement Schedules

A schedule of reinforcement is a useful tool that allows researchers to mimic learning patterns. They can control the frequency and timing of the reinforcement, and can create both simple and complex controlled environments that can be manipulated for various examples. Since learning does not follow a linear pattern, the ability to change the schedule of reinforcement during an experiment can perhaps show how learning naturally occurs. Simple reinforcement schedules may include feedback intervals or ratios of feedback that can be fixed or variable. Compound schedules are a combination of two or more simple schedules using the same reinforcer, and focusing on the same target behavior. In environments that are controlled, behaviors may become predictable, and specific variations of intermittent reinforcement can consistently encourage specific patterns of responses. All types of reinforcement schedules are intended to elicit a specific target behavior (Charles, 2014). Continuous schedules offer a reward for the successful performance of the intended behavior. Simple intermittent...

References: Charles, Eric Ph.D. (2014, February 27). Psychology Today Magazine. Fixing psychology: explaining behaviorism: operant & classical conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fixing-psychology/201402/explaining-behaviorism-operant-classical-conditioning
Olson, M. H. & Hergenhahn, B. R. (2013). An introduction to theories of learning (9th ed.).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Thorndike, E.L. (1911). Animal intelligence: experimental studies. New York. Macmillan.
University of Washington. (2014). Three major types of learning. Retrieved from http://faculty.washington.edu/robinet/Learning.htm
(2014). Boundless.com/psychology. Retrieved from https://www.boundless.com/psychology/learning/operant-conditioning/schedules-of-reinforcement/
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