B1 Intermediate 5 Folder Collection
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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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Skinner’s Operant Conditioning: Rewards & Punishments

5 Folder Collection
Summer published on July 30, 2020
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