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Operant Conditioning

 

Explanations > Theories > Operant Conditioning

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

A behavior will increase if it is followed by positive reinforcement. It will decrease if it is followed by punishment.

Operant Conditioning is thus ‘learning by consequences’.

Whereas Classical Conditioning involves automatic, pre-programmed responses, Operant Conditioning involves learned behaviors. Also, whilst Classical Conditioning associates two stimuli, Operant Conditioning associates a stimulus and a response.

Favorable circumstances are generally known as reinforcing stimuli or reinforcers, whilst unfavorable circumstances are known as punishing stimuli or punishers.

Operant Conditioning is also known as Instrumental Conditioning.

Research

Skinner put rats and pigeons in a box where pressing a lever resulted in food being dispensed. From accidental knocking of the lever, they quickly learned to deliberately press it to get food.

Example

Parents often try to balance praise and punishment. To be effective, they should punish only behaviors they wish to extinguish--they should not punish for not doing what should be done.

So what?

Using it

If you want someone to work harder, do not punish them when they do not work—reward them when they do. If you want them to stop smoking, make it unpleasant when they do rather than pleasant when they refrain.

See also

Classical Conditioning, Conditioning, Reinforcement

http://www.brembs.net/learning/

http://www.bfskinner.org/

http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Skinner/Twotypes/twotypes.htm

References

Skinner (1935), Skinner (1938)

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