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  • Operant conditioning is based on the idea that we can increase or decrease a

  • certain behavior by adding a consequence. For example if a dog poops on a carpet

  • we can either provide reinforcement so the dog does it again or punishments of

  • the dog stops. Both reinforcement and punishment can either be positive or

  • negative, which means we have four possible ways to teach this dog a lesson.

  • We can draw the four options in a table: if reinforcement is positive we add

  • something pleasant like a cookie to increase the likelihood of a behavior. If

  • reinforcement is negative we still want to increase the desired behavior this

  • time by removing something unpleasant like the leash. If punishment is positive

  • we add an unpleasant response to decrease behavior. When punishment is

  • negative we also want to decrease behavior now by removing something

  • pleasant like the comfy carpet. If we stop any sort of manipulation the

  • conditioned behavior will eventually disappear again.

  • This is called extinction. Operant conditioning was first studied by Edward

  • L. Thorndike and later made famous by the work of B.F. Skinner. Skinner believed that

  • organisms are doing what they do naturally until they accidentally

  • encounter a stimulus that creates conditioning which results in a change

  • in behavior. To test this he placed a rat inside an operant conditioning chamber

  • which later became known as the Skinner Box. Among other things inside the box

  • was a lever that would release food when pressed. Conditioning happens in a

  • three-term contingency today known as the ABCs of behavior. A stands for

  • antecedent: the rat accidentally hits the lever that triggers the release of food.

  • B stands for behavior and refers to the response: the rat keeps pressing the

  • lever. C stands for consequence: food keeps coming out.

  • The strength of the response to the conditioning depends on the schedule of

  • reinforcement. If there is always food after pressing, the rat behaves

  • predictably. If the food is released randomly the rat behaves erratically,

  • like an addict. Skinner born in 1904 was a professor of psychology and subscribed

  • to behaviorism. He argued that you can only study behavior that is visible and

  • anything happening only within the mind is either a misconception or irrelevant

  • to science. He thought free will was an illusion

  • because behavior is either random or a reaction to the environment. His work

  • became the foundation for behavioral therapy, military drills, and animal

  • training. You can try this classroom exercise on positive reinforcement: One

  • individual must exit the room. Now decide on a task which that individual will

  • complete, such as finding a particular book. Then choose an honorable way of

  • reinforcing that tasks such as clapping your hands. Invite the person to come

  • back into the room and let them try and complete the task but don't give any

  • instructions. Every time they are on the right track in regards to completing the

  • task clap your hands louder. If they move away from performing the task reduce

  • your applause or stop it entirely. Once the person understands what they are

  • supposed to do let them explain the task. Did they get it right?

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Operant conditioning is based on the idea that we can increase or decrease a

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B1 behavior reinforcement conditioning skinner rat task

Skinner’s Operant Conditioning: Rewards & Punishments

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    Summer posted on 2020/07/30
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