Introduction To Operant Conditioning Essay

5322 words - 22 pages

What Is Operant Conditioning?
Operant conditioning (sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.
Operant conditioning was coined by behaviorist B.F. Skinner, which is why you may occasionally hear it referred to as Skinnerian conditioning. As a behaviorist, Skinner believed that internal thoughts and motivations could not be used to explain behavior. Instead, he suggested, we should look only at the external, observable causes of human behavior.
Skinner used the term operant to refer to any ...view middle of the document...

In situations that reflect positive reinforcement, a response or behavior is strengthened by the addition of something, such as praise or a direct reward.

2. Negative reinforcers involve the removal of an unfavorable events or outcomes after the display of a behavior. In these situations, a response is strengthened by the removal of something considered unpleasant.
In both of these cases of reinforcement, the behavior increases.
Punishment, on the other hand, is the presentation of an adverse event or outcome that causes a decrease in the behavior it follows. There are two kinds of punishment:
1. Positive punishment, sometimes referred to as punishment by application, involves the presentation of an unfavorable event or outcome in order to weaken the response it follows.

2. Negative punishment, also known as punishment by removal, occurs when an favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs.
In both of these cases of punishment, the behavior decreases.
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Question: What Is Punishment?
Punishment is a term used in operant conditioning to refer to any change that occurs after a behavior that reduces the likelihood that that behavior will occur again in the future. While positive and negative reinforcement are used to increase behaviors, punishment is focused on reducing or eliminating unwanted behaviors.
Punishment is often mistakenly confused with negative reinforcement. Remember, reinforcement always increases the chances that a behavior will occur and punishment always decreases the chances that a behavior will occur.
Types of Punishment
Behaviorist B. F. Skinner, the psychologist who first described operant conditioning, identified two different kinds of aversive stimuli that can be used as punishment.
* Positive Punishment: This type of punishment is also known as "punishment by application." Positive punishment involves presenting an aversive stimulus after a behavior as occurred. For example, when a student talks out of turn in the middle of class, the teacher might scold the child for interrupting her.

* Negative Punishment: This type of punishment is also known as "punishment by removal." Negative punishment involves taking away a desirable stimulus after a behavior as occurred. For example, when the student from the previous example talks out of turn again, the teacher promptly tells the child that he will have to miss recess because of his behavior.
Is Punishment Effective?
While punishment can be effective in some cases, you can probably think of a few examples of when punishment does not reduce a behavior. Prison is one example. After being sent to jail for a crime, people often continue committing crimes once they are released from prison.
Why is it that punishment seems to work in some instances, but not in others? Researchers have found a number of factors that contribute to how...

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