B.F. Skinner is constantly thought of when thinking of operant conditioning because he is one of the important influential psychologist who introduced this style of behavior theory. As many do, Skinner’s first experiments were conducted on animals where he was capable of seeing first hand the different levels of operant conditioning. He then took the knowledge he gained and applied it to humans, developing teaching machines and became interested early in his career with education (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).
Operant Conditioning Theory
If one follows the beliefs of a behaviorist, one can say with affirmation that not all behavior is determined by genetics. Skinner had many influential psychologists before him to aid in molding his thoughts and ideas with regard to learning. One of these was E. L. Thorndike. Thorndike proposed the term instrumental conditioning instead of operant. Both Skinner and Thorndike believed that humans and animals were gifted enough to handle complex behavior. Skinner noted this kind of learning was conditioning, while Pavlov agreed it was learning, it was of a different kind. In Respondent behavior one does it in a submissive way but operant conditioning occurs because of a past reward and positive outcome. Thus making respondent behavior being defined as something totally different. It is a critical note that if the behavior occurs again it rises and lowers based on the merit of the consequence. A bond that is made between a given action and the consequence of that action is referred to as contingency and how one’s behavior will react in the future (Alloy, Riskind & Manos, 2005).
Skinner states that based on his theory there are three terms, which relate to operant conditioning these, are response reinforcement and stimulus. Skinner acknowledges that life is full of these reinforcers. There are several different kinds of reinforcers for example food, or sex where the person reacts instinctively. These are known as primary reinforcers and are not learned. However, the secondary reinforcers are learned and conditioned therefore the response to them is conditioned (Alloy, Riskind & Manos, 2005).
Comparing and contrasting reinforcements
The three main components in operant conditioning are punishment, negative reinforcement, and positive reinforcement. Based on Skinner’s theory, a reinforcement is created when there is a behavior generated. Where he puts his theory to test is the reaction that is derived from that behavior will either be positive or negative. If it is positive reaction then the person will seek to repeat the behavior, if there is a negative reaction then behavior will not be wanted. It is imperative to know that positive and negative do not refer to something being added or taken away, but simply something being pleasant or unpleasant. To help simplify this even more, in order for someone to have a positive behavior he or she is rewarded with a stimulus, whereas a negative behavior removes that stimulus. Punishment is not a negative reinforcement and sometimes that can become confused when looking at reinforcements. It is smart to keep in mind that while one kind of behavior is strengthened by reinforcement, the other is eliminated based on the lack of the reward or punishment (Alloy, Riskind & Manos, 2005).
Which reinforcement is the most effective
It often is impossible to clearly state which reinforcement is the most effective. There are two factors that continually play a role when attempting to make that decision, and that is the organism, and the circumstances. Some may react differently when exposed to the positive and negative reinforcement. Also, the person seeking the desired result could influence the better choice. For example when a person goes to eat at a restaurant, they are seeking a positive experience, if this occurs, there would be a reward for the server, this would lead the server to have a positive experience. In the same end when there is a negative reinforcement could be the annoying seatbelt ding when the car is put into drive. The seatbelt is the reinforcement because it removes the annoying dinging or buzzing from the vehicle. It can be recorded that both kinds of reinforcements are effective sine they have the ability to change one’s future response. Along side positive and negative reinforcement, there is positive and negative punishment. A positive punishment would be someone raising their voice during an argument to calm a situation down, or grounding one’s children after they have exhibited bad behavior. It truly depends on the aspect of the situation (Schunk, 2008).
The best scenario for operant conditioning is raiding children. Many parents who have more than one child have to discipline them differently. My friend Amanda has a three year old who last year became a big sister. The constant attention that use to be given to her has now been transferred to her little sister. Madyson rebels and tries to get away with as much as possible because the attention is not on her any more. Using positive reinforcement with her can make her still feel special and her own individual self while the negative reinforcement would be a punishment when she acts up and does not listen to her parents.
Schedule for selected behavior
Knowing Madyson as well as I do the only way to shape her behavior is by positive reinforcement, because it is only going to get worse as the baby gets older. Setting up a time and a place for just Madyson time without having her sister Taylor present would show her that she is still important. Including Madyson in various things throughout the day with her sister can lead her to a better understanding that helping her parents out can allow her time in the evening with Mom or Dad after the baby has gone to bed. But, in the same token, a negative response would be as she acts out or tries to pitch a fit because she is feeling jealous, redirecting her in a positive way can show her this will not reap the reward of alone time with her parents.
As discussed, there are pros and cons to reinforcement behavior. B.F. Skinner along side with many different psychologists have shaped what and how we look at operant conditioning. Using any type of positive reinforcement to get a desired result is a form of conditioning. Parents use it often without even realizing it when redirecting children to receive the desired result of cleaning a room, or watching a television show.
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