PS124: Introduction to Psychology
June 9, 2014
Operant conditioning is a method of learning base upon a system of rewards and punishments to change behavior. In other words, psychologist use positive and negative reinforcement or positive and negative punishment to change behavior using a basic cause and effect method. Psychologist Edward L. Thorndike was the first to study operant behavior and was later expanded on by psychologist B. F. Skinner. Skinner was a behaviorist that believed that to understand behavior you must look at the causes of actions, and its consequences. Skinner’s theory explains how we acquire the range of learned behaviors we display each and every day.
Two of the four components used in operant conditioning are positive and negative reinforcement, which is used to ...view middle of the document...
Negative reinforcement is defined as the strengthening of a response by removing a typically unpleasant stimulus after the response (Stangor. 2010, p. 204). An example of negative reinforcement is that our teacher gave us a pass on our quiz this week so we can do a good job on our paper or my kids cleaned their room to avoid me yelling at them. An ethical concern with this method it that if a person does is not successful in their attempts to avoid the negative consequence, they may not never try later attempts in the future.
Positive and negative punishment is the two other methods of operant conditioning that is used to decrease an undesired behavior. Positive punishment is the weakening of a response by presenting a typically unpleasant stimulus after the response (Stangor. 2010, p. 205). Which is presenting an unfavorable stimulus following an undesirable behavior. An example in this method is I grounded my child for not listening to me or I embarrassed him in front of his brother for wetting the bed. An ethical concern with this method is that it may result in other bad behavior.
Negative punishment is the weakening of a response by removing a typically pleasant stimulus after the response (Stangor, 2020, p.205). An example of negative punishment is that my children get tickets for good behavior that can be turned in for prizes and if they are they display bad behavior the ticket is taken away. Another example can be my children were fighting over the video games so I took the video games away. An ethical concern with this method is that it does not show or teach the individual how to change their behavior, only that they got punished for their behavior.
Operant conditioning can be effective in learning and behavior modification. As a parent myself that used operant conditioning before I knew what it was, I found what works for one individual may not work for all, and therefore change due to different circumstances.
Reference: Stangor, C. (2010). Introduction to Psychology. Irvington, NY: Flat World